After writing about Quilts of Valor last week, I thought a "blanket" column about all the military support in and around Gwinnett County was in order, especially after talking with the Rev. Robert Duvall, the chaplain at Gwinnett Medical Center.
While thousands of veterans are homeless, in prison or struggling with emotional and physical issues, Duvall said, "One in every four deaths is a veteran and 95 percent of those who die, their death comes outside of the VA system. We need to do all we can to recognize their particular needs."
GMC, along with Vitas Hospice and First Methodist Church of Lawrenceville, recently held a seminar for clergy and other caregivers for improving care for veterans facing illness and death. They are also exploring other ways to reach, recognize and support patients who are veterans.
ArtReach, which began in Gwinnett, uses the arts to help veterans deal with PTSD. Sentinels of Freedom, based in Duluth, provides long-term assistance to wounded veterans and partners with other other nonprofits on small projects.
Task Force Patriot, a faith-based support group that meets for dinner on first Thursdays at First Baptist Church in Lilburn provides an opportunity for veterans to connect.
"Vets are bonded together in a special way I can't describe," TFP founder Jim Freeman said, and I can attest that they bring in some of the most inspirational speakers I have ever heard.
St. John Neumann Catholic Church in Lilburn is actively collecting items and donations for Soldier's Connection, American Legion Auxiliary Unit 233, Loganville for boxes of toiletries and treats to be sent to our men and women serving in Afghanistan. These personalized boxes are packed at the American Legion on U.S. Highway 78 about every three weeks, with over more than boxes being mailed at Christmas.
Anyone can send a donation or the name of a loved one now serving in Afghanistan by sending their name and address to Soldier's Connection, P.O. Box 291, Loganville, GA 30052, or email@example.com and they will be added to the list. There are two packing dates scheduled for July with about 60 boxes at each packing. Spokesperson Mickie Ferrante said they sent 90 boxes last month, filled not only with material goodies, but also "thank you for your service" letters and cards written by school children and seniors; with some of the most appreciative notes coming from the men who had served in Korea and Vietnam.
On July 15-19, the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers will be holding a healing retreat for veterans suffering from the trauma of war. And several churches, including Snellville United Methodist and Buford Presbyterian have Stephen Ministers who provide ongoing personal support for anyone needing a "shoulder" or an "ear," including, of course, our veterans.
If I've failed to cover any organization, please add it to the comment section and also submit it to Volunteer Gwinnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Susan Larson is a writer from Lilburn. Email her at email@example.com.