Community celebrates Oneida County veterans
By Eileen Persike
Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes and Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs, Mary Kolar took part in the Oneida County Veterans Day ceremony Monday. The annual event, usually held at the veteran’s memorial outside the Oneida County Courthouse, was moved indoors due to the cold temperatures.
In his speech, Barnes, the grandson of a WWII veteran, said Veterans Day recognizes not only vets and their military service, but the sacrifices they and their families have made.
“As a society we must make sure we extend our hand in service to veterans who are making the transition from military service back to civilian life,” Barnes said. “It’s a time when we as a community and as an administration can come together to do everything we can to support them.”
With the passage of the current state budget, the Evers administration made permanent the funding for the Veterans Outreach and Recovery Program (VORP) statewide, “ensuring that at-risk veterans across our state will get the assistance they need for their physical health and wellbeing,” Barnes said.
VORP, initiated in 2014, provides assistance for mental health services, substance abuse, housing, transportation and other services. It’s a program County Veterans Service Officer Tammy Javenkoski said she has been behind since the start.
“Until that program came out we had no program in our county for homeless veterans,” Javenkoski said. “If we had a homeless veteran and, being our budget is limited and it can cost a little bit of money to put a homeless veteran under a roof, it wasn’t unheard of for me to go to Facebook and ask for donations for a homeless veteran. I love the VORP program.”
Kolar, a Navy vet who served for 28 years, echoed Barnes’ call to welcome military veterans as they return home.
“We must continue welcoming home military veterans with open arms in our communities,” Kolar said. “Let’s make sure that we are there for them during times of need and fulfill our collective commitment to service. On Veterans Day and every day, veterans should be assured that we are here to serve them.”
Also speaking at the ceremony were Rhinelander attorney and Navy veteran Brian Bennett and State Sen. Tom Tiffany.