'Joint Operation' offers support services to area veterans

'Joint Operation' offers support services to area veterans

September 21st, 2017 by Emmett Gienapp in Local Regional News

Army veteran James E. Dillon III pets Tessa, a 6-year-old golden retriever therapy dog, during the "Joint Operation" event at the Museum Center at 5ive Points on Wednesday, Sept. 20, in Cleveland, Tenn. The free event was open to all Tennessee veterans and their families and featured more than 45 agencies and organizations with information on a number of resources, including VA claim assistance, vocational rehabilitation, education, employment, mental health, housing, legal assistance and more.

Photo by C.B. Schmelter

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CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Veterans flocked to the Museum Center at Five Points here on Wednesday morning to take advantage of an event organized to bring various support services under one roof for men and women who served in the armed forces.

The event, titled "Joint Operation" by U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and the local legislators who organized it, brought together 60 nonprofit organizations, businesses and schools, all of which set up tables for veterans to visit. By 10 a.m., the room felt like a lively job fair, with former service members and their families drifting from one station to another.

Jane Jolley, one of the event organizers from Corker's office, said the goal was to meet the men and women who have protected the country and care for them by connecting them to available services.

"We have so many veterans who call our office because they need resources," she said. "We're just bridging the gap between resources and needs, because we want to make sure we're doing everything we can to support them."

Veterans at the event came with a variety of expectations and goals, but most seemed pleased with it and the effort being put into assisting them. Dave Drumm, a veteran of the Army Airborne, praised organizers for putting it together.

"It's like going onto a horse farm and being able to walk up to a stall and pick your favorite horse," he said.

Drumm said he was particularly interested in the VA Choice Program, which allows veterans who meet certain criteria to receive health care locally rather than traveling out of town to designated facilities.

"I have glaucoma and I have to travel to Nashville for treatment. That's 362 miles round trip," he said.

Other visitors signed up for different services tailored to fit other needs.

Loree Schweinforth was running a table with her husband for Healing Waters, a nonprofit fly fishing group for veterans that had already signed up six people for future trips.

"It's done at no cost to the veterans," she said. "We have participants of all ages and service backgrounds."

She said fly fishing develops physical skill and concentration, but the hobby can be mentally and emotionally therapeutic as well.

"Not only does fly fishing help veterans mentally and physically, it's also getting them rehabilitated," she said. "Any place you go to fly fish, if you think about the scenery there, it's peaceful."

Contact staff writer Emmett Gienapp at egienapp@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6731. Follow him on Twitter @emmettgienapp.