West Virginians answer the call to serve their country by entering the military at a higher rate than those in nearly any other state. But that means a higher price to be paid, as those veterans come home with concerns and issues others simply do not have, and often do not understand.
This month, Rick Thompson, cabinet secretary for the state Department of Veterans Assistance, plans to tour West Virginia gathering information from veterans and their communities.
"If we are to successfully serve the veterans of West Virginia, we must fully understand their most pressing needs," Thompson said. One of those needs is to tackle the suicide rate for veterans - more than double that for civilians in the state. Such an alarming statistic speaks to the need for every effort the Department of Veterans Assistance can pour toward helping military veterans and their families.
Northern Panhandle veterans and their families can meet with Thompson at 4 p.m. Sept. 26, at Moundsville American Legion, Post 3. It is an excellent opportunity for them to find out about assistance already available to them, in addition to voicing concerns the department has not addressed adequately.
West Virginia's ability to help veterans is limited, of course. Compared to what the federal Veterans Administration spends, our efforts are but a drop in the bucket. For that very reason, however, we must do the best we can with what we have.
In the most recent count, there were 175,000 veterans who called this state home. That is a lot of listening, a lot of stories and struggles to be used to better assist those who chose to do a great deal more than listen for the rest of us.