Veterans Forum: Learn how to prepare for death of a veteran

On June 14, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., the Montezuma County Veterans Service Officer is hosting a Veterans Forum at the Montezuma County Annex, 107 North Chestnut St., Cortez.

Veterans and their families as well as the public are invited to attend this informative forum. Come hear about Veterans Administration and state benefits for our veterans and their survivors. Topics that will be covered include; disability compensation, VA pensions, health-care benefits, and burial benefits. Refreshments and snacks will be available. Members of the local veterans organizations will also be in attendance to assist the Montezuma County veterans service officer during the forum.

As a family, how do we prepare for the needs and death of a veteran? In many cases, some families don’t even know about the veteran’s experiences. Where does the family start? Maybe the first place to start is to try and get the veteran to prepare for the inevitable. My brothers, sisters and I talk all the time about our father’s health and his affairs. It is not an easy task, but we do know where he wishes to be buried, and his finances are being monitored more as he gets older. Does he resist? Of course he does. He feels that we are prying into his affairs.

My father is a Korean War veteran, and it took me many years of talking to get him to enroll in the VA health-care system. This was the first step to assure that my father’s affairs were in order and has put the family more at ease. This forum is being put on so that you may be able to help your family get your affairs in order. Simple things like, how important is your DD Form 214, and where your family can find it? Is your spouse eligible for VA compensation? What are your burial benefits, and what documents are required? Who in the county can provide home health care or assisted living? These type of questions will be answered during the forum.

None of us are fully prepared to lose a family member or the importance that one person brought to a family. The continuation of that person’s contribution to family history, especially if they are a veteran, is lost forever. The realization of a veteran’s loss usually happens at their memorial service. In my experience, the most heart-wrenching part is the rifle salute and the playing of Taps. I can not help shedding tears – the finality of it all, the end of an era long since past.

I have met many people my own age that are struggling with health issues of a veteran parent and have asked for my advice. It humbles me to think that they even consider asking. I always try and direct them the best I can to those services that can help with their issues. In almost every case, I point them toward the county veterans service officer. In my opinion, our county service officer is the most valuable veteran resource we have. His work ethic is tireless, his concern for the veteran and their families is pure and honest, and he works to educate all that ask. This Veterans Forum was developed out of an idea and conversation for a need to help educate veterans and families of the benefits due them for their service to country.

The public was also a consideration for this forum as there are many in our community that work with veterans in the home health care and assisted living arena. If your organization feels they have something to offer veterans, this forum is a great opportunity. Please contact Rick Torres, Montezuma County Veterans Service Officer, 970-564-2779. On behalf of Rick, the veterans organizations and myself, we look forward to seeing you at the Montezuma County Veterans Forum.

Robert Valencia is a retired Army Sergeant First Class, member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans and the American Legion. He can be reached at 970-560-1891. Listen to Veterans Forum the Last Friday of the month at 8:30 a.m. on KSJD Radio FM 90.5/91.5