Veteran service officers will meet returning troops

Robby Robinson, Washington County’s Veterans Services Officer, will again be part of a contingent of veterans services officers from around the state who will meet returning Minnesota National Guard troops after overseas deployment and work with them to smooth their re-integration.

This time, the program will be later in the spring, welcoming troops to Camp Shelby, MS.

Last fall, the Minnesota Association of County Veterans Services Officers aided in the re-integration of about 90 National Guard members from Company B 2-211/ Many of them have Washington County connections, but members are from all over Minnesota and some are from other states.

County veterans services officers from around the state will travel to Mississippi to start the demobilization and re-integration process for the new wave of returning troops.

Part of the process will be to enroll troops in the Veterans Administration health care program, and to start the process for any veteran who will qualify for Veterans Administration benefits.

Linking returning troops to their home county veterans services officer will also be key.

The spring contingent will be larger than the one that returned in November, and will arrive in groups over the course of the re-integration process. The benefit of meeting the troops as they arrive at the fort allows the service officers to meet one-on-one with them, so each may be asked personally, “What are your biggest concerns coming back,” Robinson said, and what can be done to help alleviate those concerns.

The veterans services officers must also realize that the troops will simply want to be home, to be reunited with loved ones, Robinson said. “When you’ve been gone more than a year, it’s quite a feeling when you are back here and need to readjust to family life,” he said. It is always challenging when one member of the household has been carrying the whole load, to have a second person re-enter the picture.

Another challenge is looking for work, for those who will not be returning to a former job. And after that, Robinson said he is looking forward to visiting with the returning troops to see what else it is that they need. It will be similar to the November program, but on a much larger scale, he said.

Robinson and Dale Cotch, another Veterans Services Officer, conduct office hours in the county service centers in Cottage Grove and Forest Lake, as well as in the Government Center in Stillwater.

Office hours are 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday in the county Government Center in Stillwater; 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Fridays in Cottage Grove, call 651-430-6895 for appointments; and 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., Mondays and Wednesdays in Forest Lake, call 651-430-6578 for appointments.

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