Members and leaders of local veterans’ organizations attended Tuesday’s meeting of the Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter 789 at the Golden Hibachi Buffet on Oglethorpe Highway in Hinesville. The veterans came to hear guest speaker Lt. Col. Rose Deck, commander of the Warrior Transition Battalion at Fort Stewart.
Support for active-duty military and veterans was evident in the number veterans organizations represented and the number of veterans attending the meeting. Every seat at every table in the banquet room was filled.
In addition to the VVA and the Disabled Veterans of America, Chapter 46, which co-sponsored the meeting, members of the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Hinesville Military Affairs Committee attended.
“There are soldiers who come to us with significant challenges,” said Deck, who’s been in the Army for 26 years. “We are preparing (them) to return back to the communities they came from.”
The North Dakota native said she realized the veterans in the room were older and represented different wars. She said, though, that despite different modes of transportation to combat zones and different theaters of war, today’s active-duty veterans are the same. A WTB first sergeant attending the meeting with Deck said regardless the war, “bullets sound the same” when they’re whizzing over a soldier’s head.
Deck then pointed out that most of the 500 soldiers assigned to the WTB are not combat-injured soldiers.
“Less than 10 percent of my battalion’s soldiers are combat-wounded soldiers,” she said, explaining that soldiers also are assigned to a WTB when non-combat illnesses or injuries prevent them from performing their duties. “We have a soldier who was injured in a car accident before she finished basic training. We have another soldier with a very rare form of cancer. These soldiers would much rather be serving in Afghanistan right now. In fact, 60 percent or more of my battalion’s soldiers are combat veterans.”
Deck also noted that many of her battalion’s wounded warriors have unseen wounds, including traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder.
She explained the difference between wounded warriors and soldiers with non-combat wounds, but emphasized that both need help from the Army and the community to reintegrate into society.
As she concluded her comments, Deck took questions from the veterans. The first question asked came from local VVA President Carol Schetrompf, who wanted to know what veterans’ organizations could do to help the WTB.
“We can work together to host events (for wounded warriors),” Deck said. “I’d like to see events that get them out of their barracks rooms and socialize ... I’d like to see you reach out to those soldiers with events they can participate in.”
Former VVA President Adna Chaffee told veterans and guests about plans for a fishing event for WTB soldiers at Fort Stewart’s Pineview Lake that will be hosted by all local veterans’ organizations. The Aug. 23 event will include a morning of fishing, followed by lunch, which will be provided by veterans groups. More information about this fishing event will be published next week in the Coastal Courier.
Donald Spencer, senior vice commander for local DAV, invited Deck and her staff to attend a DAV meeting. Deck responded by stressing the importance of involvement in veterans’ organizations and said her staff can help such organizations by getting information about membership drives to her soldiers.
In addition to Deck’s remarks, Tuesday’s meeting included a presentation of a $500 scholarship to Bradwell Institute graduate Morgan Herrington, who is planning to major in biology at Georgia Southern this fall. Also, VVA, DAV and HMAC member P.J. Schneider won a raffle drawing for a tablet.