VALHALLA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Westchester County is reaching out to younger veterans to say, “We hear you.”
County officials are on a listening tour, hearing from vets enrolled in local colleges about how they’re adjusting and what kind of help they need, CBS2’s Tony Aiello reported Wednesday.
Josh Lewis served in the Far East with the Marines. Desmond Slattery was in the Army and deployed to Afghanistan. They are just two of the dozens of recent veterans now adjusting to life at Westchester Community College.
“That was the hardest part,” Lewis said. “You knew that WCC was there. You knew where it was, but it was a matter of who do you talk to? Where do you go? You come in and you don’t really know exactly how to act in a college environment. You were in an environment where everybody to the left and right of you was wearing the same clothing as you. I mean, you guys have the same lingo.”
Westchester County Executive George Latimer asked some on his team to reach out to younger vets on college campuses, to listen to their needs and take note of how to help.
“If you need help finding a service or a benefit or the GI Bill, itself, we’re here to help you. We’ll help you file it and so on and so forth,” county Veteran’s Affairs director Ron Tocci said.
There is a concern the younger generation might feel somewhat disconnected from the larger community of veterans. Few recent vets are joining groups such as the American Legion or the VFW.
The county is helping to foster connections between vets on campuses, and finding ways to tap their unique skills and experiences, Aiello reported
“Veterans have a skill set that some people don’t have, or at least get a jump-start on some skill sets like leadership, integrity, duty, responsibility,” said Travis Melby, WCC’s veterans adviser. “A lot of veterans feel a deep commitment to their community and therefore want to help their community grow.”
The county is finding ways to help, honor and serve those who served the U.S. with honor.
Westchester offers everything from housing help for homeless veterans, to discounts at Rye Playland for active duty members and their families.