We progress by acting upon inspired conversation

Inspiration: any stimulus to creative thought or action, an inspired idea, action.

nspire: to stimulate or impel, as to some creative effort.

I would like to thank all the people who attended the Veterans Forum on Saturday, June 14. Montezuma County Veterans Services, local veterans groups and local organizations, nonprofit and for-profit, were in attendance to give briefings concerning assistance available to veterans and their families. Also present was a spokesperson representing the Department of Veterans Affairs Regional office in Denver. It is our hope that this forum was well worth your attendance and discussion concerning another forum has ensued.

Among the many topics covered, the most exciting thing to come out of the forum was the introduction of the local Disabled American Veterans Project Outreach. It will be a place where local veterans and their families can obtain information about assistance programs, employment opportunities, VA benefits and to socialize with other veterans. The vision of the Dunger Smith Chapter 44, Disabled American Veterans, Cortez, which, by the way is the only chapter in the county, is interested in providing:

Computers with wireless internet access for veterans to use for job searches or research, to check on status of VA claims, submit forms to the VA, resumes and job applications.

A bulletin board for local businesses to post job offerings, information pertaining to veteran information.

DAV Veteran Service Officer counseling and assistance with filing out Disability Claims as well as VA forms.

A meeting area to hold informative seminars, monthly meetings and social events.

A library/television room for veterans to meet and socialize.

A kitchenette where we can serve snacks and beverages.

Brochures/information about our local service organizations (American Legion, Blue Star Mothers, DAV, VFW).

Brochures/information about local assistance organizations and a place where these organizations can come and interact with veterans.

A location where we can park the DAV van and where veterans who are able can meet for a ride to VA appointments. The DAV drivers will still pick up veterans at their residence if need be.

Another positive aspect about the Project Outreach center is that it is located just off Main Street within walking distance of downtown. The Montezuma County Veterans Service Office as well as the Montezuma County Health and Human Services is two blocks away, and U.S. Post Office is one block away. There is much work that needs to be done to get the center ready for its opening this summer. A dedication ceremony is planned for Veterans Day November 11, if all goes as planned.

It seems that a project like this come out of conversation when veterans are standing around talking of what we can do to help veterans. The DAV van project was inspired by such a veteran who felt there was a need for transportation for our county veterans. A used DAV van from the Durango DAV chapter was bargained for while the local community raised funds for the 2010 Ford Explorer. The DAV transportation program has just purchased its second DAV van with hopes to purchase many more.

The need for a full-time County Service officer came up in conversation some years back with the persistence of local veterans and the help of the County commissioners, we have a full-time County Veterans Service officer. This column was inspired by conversation that the local veterans need a forum to bring issues forward to help educate the citizens of the county on veterans issues. The monthly veterans radio program on KSJD radio was another inspiration started by a conversation between a veteran and the director of KSJD radio. The George Geer Memorial Car Show in August was inspired by conversation. When the local car club no longer wanted to organize the August car show, a veteran who is a member of the Blue Star Mothers brought the idea to its membership, and this August will be the fourth annual George Geer Memorial Car Show. The Veterans Forum just completed this on June 14, inspired by conversation.

Project Outreach was inspired by conversation, rooted in the need to assist veterans. It takes much courage for a veteran to ask for help. The Montezuma County Veterans Service officers, American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Blue Star Mothers are always willing to help. Be inspired, just ask.

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 8:30am on KSJD Radio FM 90.5/91.5