Hall: Vets uniquely suited for volunteering, coaching, mentoring
By Jon Hawley
Wednesday, September 26, 2018
North Carolina’s top military and veterans official discussed service when he visited Pasquotank County on Tuesday — and not just the service the state owes veterans, but the service veterans are uniquely equipped to offer their communities.
“We're always asking as veterans, what can we do more or better, and one of the things we can do is what we've been taught to do: go toward the sound of a challenge,” N.C. Department of Military and Veterans Affairs Secretary Larry Hall said at a forum at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6060.
Hall visited Pasquotank Tuesday as part of Gov. Roy Cooper's “Hometown Strong” initiative, which has tasked the military and veterans affairs department and other state agencies with improving their service to rural communities. In Pasquotank, the initiative's goals include encouraging military members to enroll at Elizabeth City State University.
Besides his talk with veterans at VFW Post 6060 on Tuesday, Hall also toured ECSU’s aviation science facilities and stopped in at the K.E. White Center for the Elizabeth City Area Chamber of Commerce’s 27th annual Business Expo.
During his visit at VFW Post 6060, Hall made a point to meet with local veterans, and to discuss how both they and the state serve each other. The Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, now a three-year-old department, helps veterans navigate the vast web of benefits available to service members, he said.
Hall, a Marine veteran himself, said veterans often don't know about, or may feel too prideful to ask for, benefits. However, he urged them to obtain every benefit to which they're entitled. They earned those benefits through service, he said.
One benefit that's underused is scholarships for veterans' children, Hall said in an interview after the VFW forum. When a veteran earns money for college, the current GI Bill lets them apply it toward their children's education, he said.
Hall also said North Carolina is unique in that it offers “veterans benefit fairs” around the state, allowing veterans to easily meet with veterans service officers and get quick decisions about what benefits they qualify for.
“Many times they have a decision on the spot,” Hall said. He added the DMVA is looking to hold those fairs in communities hit by Hurricane Florence, helping veterans get back on track.
The veterans benefit fairs have proven so successful that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is looking to replicate them in other states, he noted.
Hall also said a key part of the DMVA's work ties into economic development. About 27,000 service members enter the state's civilian workforce every year, he said, bringing a unique work ethic and skills “at or beyond market level” to many different professions. The DMVA works to connect veterans to employment opportunities; he highlighted cybersecurity as one growing field for veterans.
Hall also used his visit to encourage veterans to be civically engaged. Veterans are trained to serve and strengthen their unit, he said, and continuing that mindset makes them well suited to volunteering, coaching and mentoring, and even running for public office.
VFW Post 6060 Cmdr. Ken Sandridge agreed with Hall's comments, and noted the post is trying to increase its impact in Pasquotank and beyond.
“We hear what you're saying, secretary, about community, and we're trying to change our vision of the VFW,” Sandridge said.
He said the VFW is turning that vision into reality for victims of Hurricane Florence.
“We're going down to Jacksonville today with probably 2,000 pounds of relief stuff, and we're not going to give that to just veterans,” he said.