By Quinten Brashear

Special to Mt. Juliet News

The Wilson County Veterans Services office held an open house recently to give local veterans the chance to tour the facility and see what services are offered.

The event also included tours of the Wilson County Veterans Museum, and veterans got the chance to meet the office staff and learn about veterans’ benefits.

The outreach event helped veterans and their families receive the benefits they deserve, as well as help bring normalcy to their everyday lives. From VA enrollment to suicide prevention, the services provided are all dedicated to fulfill their needs.

“The whole thing is a comprehensive approach to the VA health care system,” said Michael McPherson, director of Wilson County Veterans Services.

McPherson, a 21-year Army veteran, has worked for the Veteran’s Service office for two years.

“We’ve got to have a voice for these veterans, and this office does it,” said McPherson.

McPherson worked closely with Witt Cook with the Nashville Vet Center to bring the many veteran services under one roof.

“Bringing resources to the community is a wonderful thing,” said Cook, who served in the U.S. Navy for eight years.

Some of the vendors included a caregiver support program for veterans’ spouses and family members, women’s health program, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, community care providers that include foster homes for veterans and the Tennessee Valley Whole Health Initiative that wants to curb the opioid crisis with alternate pain relief such as acupuncture and massage therapy.

When veterans come to the service office, they fill out an assessment that lets the office know what their needs are, and the office stays true to its mission to serve them with dignity and compassion.

“Depending on what they present during that needs assessment…we’ve got the right people here who can meet those needs,” said Cook. “And it’s really wonderful, because it keeps them from having to go ‘over there’ to see ‘that guy’ or ‘over there’ to see ‘that guy.’ Everyone is in one place.”

“We really strive to help veterans transition back into public life,” said McPherson. “Some of these people have been serving half their life. They get out and, all of the sudden, things have changed. You haven’t done a resume in 20 years. There’s a lot of things you have to be prepared for, but for us, it’s bringing normalcy to the veterans who are transitioning out and need assistance, and they come here for that.”

Peggy Bloechl spoke about the significance of the Veterans Crisis Hotline. She said about 22 veterans commit suicide each day.

The Wilson County Veterans Museum includes artifacts from every major military event in American history. In addition, there’s a Huey helicopter that was flown in Vietnam by Wilson County veterans.

“All those artifacts in there come from Wilsonians,” McPherson said. “That brick and mortar is built on stories and tales from moms and dads who were veterans. Everything you see in there is somehow someway tied to a Wilson County vet.”

Cook agreed with McPherson about the museum’s significance.

“It really shows people who are not veterans that our neighbors – this wasn’t something just seen on the news – people from Wilson County occupied those uniforms and wore those medals,” Cook said.