Veteran Family Week was proclaimed by Mayor Provenzano today in recognition of the value veteran families bring to our community, and in an effort to raise awareness and build connections to enhance the network of support available to the veteran family community in Sault Ste. Marie.
“This year we have grown Veteran Family Week to include local businesses, service providers and community leaders” said Tina Thomason, Veteran Family Program Coordinator, “We have a full week of events planned in recognition and celebration of Veteran Family Week, including the delivery of the Mental Health First Aid for the Veteran Community Course on September 12th and 13th. This is a partnership with the Mental Health Commission of Canada, and provides training to assist people in responding to a mental health emergency with someone in the Veteran Community.”
Veteran Family Week was launched this year at Superior Nissan, which is operated by community leader Greg Lefave. “I chose to join this movement towards building connections within the veteran family community as a community leader because I have first-hand experience with the suffering that can happen when a strong support network doesn’t exist” said Lefave. “Also, as a business owner, connecting with veterans and their families affords any business the benefit of the incredible values that veterans and their families bring to a business environment in terms of loyalty, service and transferable skills.”
Member of Provincial Parliament Ross Romano and Mayor Christian Provenzano both took time to recognize the sacrifices and challenges faced by veterans ad their families.
Lieutenant-Colonel Lance Knox of the 49th Field Regiment cited a prime example of the difficulty regular force soldiers face upon reintegration. “If you want to invoke a perplexed look, ask them (the veteran or soldier) the same question you would ask anyone the first time you meet them. ‘Where are you from?’ They will pause… They might tell you their last posting, where they spent three years, during which they may have done a stint somewhere
else… They probably haven’t even unpacked their boxes. There is a reason why they hesitate at this simple question. When you move that frequently, as that seaman, that airman, that cadet, the word ‘home’ is nebulous.”
An impactful statement, as ‘home’ is a term and a reality so many of us tend to take for granted.
Perhaps more impactful is what Frank Iezzi, a veteran who spent 22 years in the airforce, told SaultOnline at the event, “Once you leave the military, the military kind of washes its hands of you.”
Iezzi said that while he has been lucky enough to have support and help in his life, this is not the case for all veterans. One aspect of the program that he is really looking forward to is the Superior Ridge Retreat, which he describes as “a place where veterans can come out and be themselves. Whether they want to relax, go fishing, have a garden, raise little animals. Whatever they need to reintegrate back into society.”
Thomason acknowledged that veterans have versatile needs, and they hope to be able to address them through the Veteran Family Program. “We recognize that it can be difficult for the entire family. We want to empower veterans to reach out, and that is why we have such a huge suite of programs available.”
The Veteran Family Program that Thomason referred to aims to ease the transition from military to post service life through navigation, enhanced information and referral services, and direct support. “An important part of the Veteran Family Program is building partnerships with organizations that have a lot to offer Veterans and their families in the Sault” said Carrie Gray, Veteran Family Program Coordinator, “The information exchange event that we have planned on Tuesday, September 11th from 2:00pm to 6:00pm at the Water Tower Inn will not disappoint and will include presentations from the Canadian Mental Health Association, Veterans Affairs Canada, Algoma Veterans Association, and Dr. McGarry Roberts. We are also very excited to have Dr. Tara Guzzo presenting on a program called Resilience Reset, which uses HeartMath technology to map the body’s stress response.”
Registration is not required for the information exchange on Tuesday September 11th from 2:00pm to 6:00pm, and refreshments will be served throughout the afternoon. Veterans Affairs North Bay Area Office representatives will also be offering drop in consultations throughout the week. For a full schedule of events including drop in times and locations or for more information about the Veteran Family Program please visit: http://www.veteranfamilyprogram.ca