Veterans Expo

State Rep. Donna Oberlander (back row, left) joined others at the Veterans Expo held Thursday at the Trinity Point Church of God in Clarion. With Oberlander are (seated) Philip Fitch (left) and Bill Buckley (right) of Pheasants Forever, and (back row) Gary L. McLaughlin of Pheasants Forever and David Grey of the DuBois Veterans Center.

CLARION — Nonprofit groups, medical facilities and related organizations were on hand at the fourth annual Veterans’ Expo held at Trinity Point Church of God near Clarion on Oct. 17. Hosted by state Rep. Donna Oberlander (R-Clarion), the event drew on the expertise of about 20 regional exhibitors showcasing diverse veterans’ programs.

Clarion University’s Director of Veteran Services Dan Smith, Lt. Col. USMC (Ret) shared what his office has to offer.

“My staff and I strongly encourage both veterans and active-duty personnel to take full advantage of educational opportunities available to them,” he said. “Along with on-campus classes, there is a wealth of online courses that any former or present service member can access. Active-duty personnel can complete their coursework no matter where they are deployed.”

But Smith’s office, along with most of the other exhibitors, does not stop when serving past and present servicemen and servicewomen.

“We also make sure that their dependents’ needs are being addressed,” he said. “This could include things such as housing, financial assistance and educational opportunities.”

David Grey, combat support services director at the DuBois Veterans Center, provides similar services.

“I love my job,” he said. “We make sure our guys and gals get any help they may need, from PTSD treatment to finding affordable housing.”

It was a theme that ran throughout the two-hour event on Thursday.

Clarion Healthcare and Rehabilitation units at the local hospital shepherd veterans through the complexities of skilled nursing care and recovery from various physical ailments. But they do not stop there. One of the many services they provide is respite care for ailing veterans so that caregivers can take much-needed breaks.

Along with specific veteran-related organizations, exhibitors as diverse as the Association for the Advancement of Retired People and the Central Electric Cooperative were on hand at the expo.

Laura Hensely, representing the electrical co-op serving portions of Clarion and Armstrong counties, said, “Many of our programs, in conjunction with state and federal government, serve everyone, but we like to reach out to aging veterans who can benefit from energy-assistance grants. Paying for prescriptions and transportation can make it hard to afford their electric bills.”

Across the aisle, regional representatives from AARP explained that the national organization is making a big push to protect seniors, and especially veterans, from fraud.

Allegheny Health Network, Asera Care, Clarion County Link, Clarion County Human Services, the Butler Veterans Health Administration hospital and even Clarion County Transportation offer overlapping and complementary services so that no veteran or family member is ever faced with an insurmountable problem.

But some groups go beyond the expected transportation, medical and social needs of the nation’s veterans. Some, such as the North Central Pennsylvania chapter of Pheasants Forever, provide unique recreational opportunities for veterans and their families.

Bill Buckley, a Clarion resident who serves on the group’s veterans committee, said, “We provide transportation for disabled vets, lunch, a shotgun and ammunition.”

Pheasants Forever, Buckley and his booth-mates were quick to point out, provides a range of outdoor recreational opportunities for other area residents who can benefit from time spent in the fresh air.

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