Monday is Veterans Day, and it’s so heartwarming to see Ohioans celebrate it with events all across the state to honor our heroes and pay homage to their service.
Last Thursday, I joined Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine in inducting our 2019 class into The Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame, which is one of the true highlights of the year for us and the veteran community. The days following and still ahead feature more ceremonies, parades, special programs, discounts for veterans, and more. It’s wonderful.
However, I hope that Ohioans understand Veterans Day is about much more than propping up those who were on the battlefield.
First of all, not all military members, thankfully, see combat, but they still raised their hand to serve their country and did their jobs honorably. Those who do come back enhance our communities in many ways. Ohio is home to about 733,000 veterans, which ranks our state sixth in the nation.
We are blessed to live in a state where each of our 88 counties has a County Veterans Service Office, the best place vets can go to be connected to their well-earned benefits. The officers there stand ready every day to help our heroes.
At the Ohio Department of Veterans Services (ODVS), we work closely with our county offices to ensure veterans are maximizing their benefits and care. We also oversee the State Approving Agency, which provides military members a more affordable way to pursue higher education and helps them manage their GI Bill.
ODVS also has a Veterans Workforce Team that helps businesses identity, hire, retain, and incentivize veterans. We recognize the more than 5,000 companies across our state that have been designated military-friendly because of their commitment to hire military. And that number keeps growing.
So when you picture a veteran in your mind, I hope you don’t see merely a battle-hardened person in fatigues or, worse, a former patriot in distress or dealing with health issues. Veterans are entrepreneurs, farmers, teachers, welders, police officers, public servants, business owners, and more. Veterans use their unique experiences and skills to further Ohio’s industry and economic growth.
You most likely have a neighbor who is a veteran. Your mayor or city councilman may be one, too.
We live in a fantastically patriotic state, one where former service members can live, work, and thrive. In fact, about 10,000 men and women separate from service and return to Ohio every year.
Yes, some of our veterans are in need of care, which is why we have two highly rated Ohio Veterans Homes – one in Sandusky that is the largest nursing care facility in the state, and the other in Georgetown in rural southern Ohio. Each one offers a quality of life which emphasizes respect, encourages independence, provides comfort and security, and meets our veterans’ social and medical needs.
Ohio also is home to five VA hospitals, 34 Community-Based Outpatient Clinics and eight Vet Centers. And if you go to our website, OhioVets.gov, you’ll find all kinds of links to information and resources about mental health outlets as well.
In fact, OhioVets.gov is a comprehensive online resource outlining all of the ways we are reaching out and connecting to veterans and military families. You’ll find avenues to jobs, wellness, educational opportunities, benefits, the Ohio Veterans Bonus, legal help, and more.
My mission is to serve veterans and military families, and that begins by listening to their stories, their triumphs, and challenges. Gov. DeWine and I want Ohio to be the absolute best state in the union for veterans when it comes to opportunities for work, education, recreation, and success.
So on Veterans Day and every day, honor a veteran. Hire a veteran. Hug a veteran.
Happy Veterans Day!
Deborah Ashenhurst, Director, Ohio Department of Veterans Services