THE GTC VA A Note From the Director
VETERAN OF THE YEAR Tom Whilden
VETERAN SUPPORTER OF THE YEAR Coach Tim Wooer GATHER Veterans – 1
Can’t Hear on the Phone? Enjoy phone conversations confident you’ll catch every word! CapTel® Captioned Telephones show you captions of everything your caller says. • Includes built-in answering machine • Extra large display screen with variable font sizes & colors • Includes no-cost captioning service (no monthly fees or contracts required) • Different models to fit your lifestyle
Veterans may qualify for a CapTel phone at no cost.
CONTACT YOUR LOCAL OUTREACH EDUCATOR: Jennifer Weallans 248-550-6866 email@example.com
REQUIREMENTS: Hearing Loss, High Speed Internet, Dial-tone No-Cost Phone with valid third-party certification is subject to change without notice. Terms and conditions may apply. FEDERAL LAW PROHIBITS ANYONE BUT REGISTERED USERS WITH HEARING LOSS FROM USING INTERNET PROTOCOL (IP) CAPTIONED TELEPHONES WITH THE CAPTIONS TURNED ON. IP Captioned Telephone Service may use a live operator. The operator generates captions of what the other party to the call says. These captions are then sent to your phone. There is a cost for each minute of captions generated, paid from a federally administered fund. No cost is passed on to the CapTel user for using the service. CapTel captioning service is intended exclusively for individuals with hearing loss. CapTel® is a registered trademark of Ultratec, Inc. The Bluetooth® word mark and logos are registered trademarks owned by Bluetooth SIG, Inc. (v1.5 7-18)
GATHER Veterans – 2
Wellness for Veterans Coupon Program Brought to you by a partnership between the Grand Traverse County Veterans Affairs Office and the Senior Center Network.
Free program coupon books available to area veterans for health and wellness programs within the Senior Center Network. Coupons allow veterans to attend selected FREE activities in Traverse City, Kingsley and Interlochen. Coupon books are limited and available on a first come, first served basis. Coupon book details: One coupon book per veteran. Books contain twenty coupons. Coupons issued in 2019 expire on December 27, 2019. Coupon books issued in 2020 expire on December 30, 2020. Coupons may only be used for the following programs throughout the network: Energetics, Strong Bones, Yoga, Chair Massage, Reflexology. Full program descriptions available on our website and in the People, Parks and Programs newsletter. Wellness options are subject to change at the discretion of the Senior Center Network.
How veterans can receive coupons:
Visit the Grand Traverse County Senior Center Network at 801 E. Front Street, Traverse City to pick up a coupon book. Coupon books are limited and are available on a first come, first serve basis. In order to receive a coupon book, participants must: Be a current Senior Center Member in Grand Traverse or Leelanau County. Present proof of veteran status in person to a staff member. Complete a Grand Traverse County Veterans Affairs registration form.
Grand Traverse County Senior Center Network 801 E. Front Street, Traverse City, MI 49686 231-922-4911, grandtraverse.org/scn Locations in: Traverse City, Acme, Kingsley, Interlochen, Fife Lake
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In association with
Cover Photo by Karen S. Lueck at amomentcaptured.net
10 publisher’s Note
Letter from the GTC VA Dirctor
Veteran of the year
Veteran Supporter of the Year
H.R. 299 & Blue Water veterans
Gold star mom
Grand Traverse County Dept. of Veteran Affairs
Chapter Mtgs, AA Mtgs, Parkinsons Support
Coach Tim Wooer
Meet The Staff
GATHER Veterans – 4
sailor everywhere, who bravely bears “Honor to the soldierhisandcountries cross.” —Abraham Lincoln
we!! That is the word that comes to mind every time I think of our veterans, active military, and the families that support them. The sacrifice, the dedication, and the willingness to do whatever is asked, no matter the cost. When GATHER Media LLC was asked to take on the responsibility of producing and distributing a magazine aimed at serving our veterans and active military, there was no hesitation, it was a definite, “YES!” Having celebrated and honored soldiers in our family for generations since at least as far back as World War I, I knew this was the passion project we were looking for. GATHER Media LLC’s mission is to strengthen the fabric of our community through the compelling stories and inspirational tales of the people that live here. I cannot think of a more congruent project than GATHER Veterans. We are happy to donate this magazine to the GTC VA and the veterans served by this office. We hope you enjoy the content of this first issue! We are honored to celebrate the Veteran of the Year, Tom Whilden and the Veteran Supporter of the Year, Coach Tim Wooer. GATHER Veterans Publisher and GATHER Veterans – 5
The GATHER Veterans Team
A Letter From The GTC VA Director I am excited to see the very first edition of GATHER Veterans! I want to thank GATHER Media LLC and their advertising partners for helping to make this magazine possible. My vision of getting veteran benefit information into the hands of all veterans, widows and family members could not happened without their willingness to take on this project with no charge to our office. THANK YOU! Throughout my seven years directing county veteran offices, the main issue I always hear from veterans is, “I did not know about your office” or “I didn’t know about these benefits”. Every year I would tweak the way that outreach was done to find another group of veterans I thought we were missing. It seems no matter what the extent of outreach, our office just was not reaching everyone. Now our office has something new in our toolbox! GATHER Media LLC’s GATHER Veterans is a bi-monthly publication that aims to be THE resource for veterans in the Grand Traverse region. Each publication will include: Featured Veteran, Featured Veteran Business / Veteran Support Organization, Benefits / Healthcare / Legislation updates, Mental Health article, Upcoming events, Veteran Chapter meetings and other reader driven content. This is about GATHERing all the information for veterans, active duty and their families in one location. Lastly, GATHER Media LLC is making the magazine affordable for veterans to receive a subscription for only $14.99 allowing it to be directly mailed to the address of their choosing, or to receive it for free, veterans will need to bring in their discharge papers to the GTC VA office located at 2650 Lafranier Rd, Traverse City and ask for a copy. This magazine is about you, the veteran! So, if you know of a veteran resource or event that you think should be featured, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or GATHER Media LLC’s content team at email@example.com. Michael W. Roof Director
Grand Traverse County Dept. of Veteran Affairs 2650 Lafrainer Road, Traverse City, MI 49686 - (231) 995-6070
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at these GATHER Upcoming Chapter TM
12/11/19 - 2nd Wednesday
Marine Corps League 2033 Honor Highway, Interlochen 6pm
2/25/20 - 4th Tuesday American Legion #35 1231 Hastings St, Travese City 6pm
12/16/19 - 3rd Monday VFW Cherryland Post 2780 3400 Veterans Dr, Traverse City 7pm
12/19/19 - 3rd Thursday Disable American Veteran American Military League, 2423 Sybrandt Rd, Traverse City 1pm
12/24/19 - 4th Tuesday
American Legion #35 1231 Hastings St, Travese City 6pm
01/08/20 - 2nd Wednesday Marine Corps League 2033 Honor Highway, Interlochen 6pm
01/16/20 - 3rd Thursday Disable American Veteran American Military League, 2423 Sybrandt Rd, Traverse City 1pm
Parkinsons Support Groups 4th Wednesday - Monthly
Traverse Senior Center 801 East Front St, Traverse City (231) 947-7389 Facilitator: Hettie Molvang 10am-11:30am
1st Tuesday - Monthly
Foster Family Health Center Rm A&B. Former MCHC 550 Munson Avenue, Traverse City (231) 947-7389 Facilitator: Hettie Molvang 6pm-8pm
3rd Thursday - Monthly
VFW Cherryland Post 2780 3400 Veterans Dr, Traverse City 7pm
Trinity Lutheran Church 995 James St, Frankfort (231) 882-4865 Facilitator: Janet and Fred Hough 2pm
01/28/20 - 4th Tuesday
3rd Thursday - Monthly
02/12/20 - 2nd Wednesday
Governmental Center Suttons Bay/ Leelanau Facilitator: Hettie Molvang 2pm-3:30pm
01/20/20 - 3rd Monday
American Legion #35 1231 Hastings St, Travese City 6pm
Marine Corps League 2033 Honor Highway, Interlochen 6pm
2/17/20 - 3rd Monday VFW Cherryland Post 2780 3400 Veterans Dr, Traverse City 7pm
2/20/20 - 3rd Thursday Disable American Veteran American Military League, 2423 Sybrandt Rd, Traverse City 1pm
AA Meeting Schedule Find a Meeting Near You http://district11-aa.org/meetings. html
GATHER Veterans – 7
Helping You Live A Healthy, Inspired And Joyful Life As a cabinet maker my work requires physical strength…One day while installing a cabinet I felt a pop in my shoulder…and a sinking feeling that I hurt myself pretty bad. Surgery wasn’t an option being self employed. My wife suggested I go see Dr Chris…I made an appointment as a last resort. After years of pain and restrictive movement in my arm, it took only one session with Dr Chris to realize I would not only have movement without pain, but strength back into my arm. Dennis, Traverse City, MI
Dr. Chris Moran 3639 Cass Rd, Traverse City, MI 49686
www.wholehealthtc.com GATHER Veterans – 8
PUBLISHER GATHER Media LLC P. O. Box 5352 Traverse City, MI 49696, (231) 492-0369 PRINTER DAVE MOORE VP Demand Creation Services (Village Press) EDITOR PAMELA MCCORMICK
Meet Grand Traverse County Department of Veteran Affairs Service Dog - Bailee! "Bailee serves as a Service Dog for Lucas Clark. She goes everywhere Lucas goes!"
OVER AND FEATURE KAREN LUECK C PHOTOGRAPHERS TIFFANY CLARKE CONTRIBUTING JESSICA LAFFIN PHOTOGRAPHERS JOHN RUSSELL CONTRIBUTING MICHAEL ROOF WRITERS KIERSTIN GUNSBERG JESSICA LAFFIN GRAPHIC DESIGNER
GATHER MEDIA STAFF
ADVERTISING advertising@ GATHERGrandTraverse.com SUBSCRIPTIONS VISIT GATHERGrandTraverse.com OR EMAIL subscriptions@ gathermediallc.com to subscribe. Subscription Rates: One Year, 6 issues, $14.99. Allow six weeks for first issue to be received. Note: Veterans and active duty will receive a free issue at GTC VA or purchase a subscription. Copyright @2019 GATHER Media LLC. All rights reserved. Individual works also copyrighted by their originators. Reproduction in whole or in part is strictly prohibited without prior written permission. We do not assume any liability for errors or omissions. GATHER Media LLC does not necessarily endorse any of the attractions, products or services contained within. All content is the intellectual property of GATHER Media LLC.
photo by Tiffany Clarke - High Street Photography
GATHER Veterans – 9
VETERAN OF THE YEAR CELEBRATING TOM WHILDEN – by Kiersten Gunsberg – Photos by Karen S Lueck at amomentcaptured.net
ifty years back and two and a half hours south of Northern Michigan, Tom Whilden was about to graduate from high school in Caledonia, a small town thirty miles in from Lake Michigan. He’d spent the past few years putting in busy hours on a dairy farm after school but there wasn’t any part of Tom looking to take a break after being handed his diploma Less than a year after graduating in 1970, Tom enlisted during the Vietnam War and set off to San Antonio, Texas for basic training at Lackland Air Force Base. While Michiganders back home were turning up their thermostats, Tom was perfecting military corners and wiping the sweat from his brow as he pushed his physical limits in the stifling southern heat. After basic training, Tom found himself closer to his old, chillier stomping grounds when he was stationed at Wurtsmith Air Force Base in Oscoda where he served stateside as a medic until his honorable discharge on February 21st, 1975 Though the war ended later that year, Tom’s zeal to serve did not. With four years of medical training
under his belt, he was accepted to Blodgett School of Nursing in Grand Rapids. It takes both grit and selflessness to be a nurse, to bring comfort to the injured and ill while also tending to their immediate needs, attributes that were well refined by his years in the military. By 1978 Tom had completed his program at Blodgett and graduated as a registered nurse, the first male at the school to do so, and was on his way to Traverse City to start his career in nursing at Munson Medical Center. There, he specialized in cardiac care, later adding emergency room nurse and North Flight crew member to his repertoire before his retirement thirty-five years later in 2013. He’s enjoying downtime with his wife of over 45 years, Deb, their two children and their four grandchildren. However, as those close to him will tell you, Tom’s love for his country and those who sacrifice for it continues to compel him, even into retirement. He’s focused his energy into supporting local veterans and veteran affairs through his work with Patriot Guard Riders, a volunteer based organization of veterans who, among other acts of honor, unite to hold American
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flags while attending military funeral services. Tom’s also the director of the American Legion Riders Post 35, located on Hastings Street near the perimeter of Cherry Capital Airport. In this role, Tom has found additional opportunities to show appreciation to others who have served or are currently serving by taking part in fundraisers for current military families and by coordinating visits to local nursing homes where he and other American Legion members spend time with former service men and women who now reside there. When he’s not putting in hours with our nation’s veterans, he’s spearheading efforts to bring the issues that face them, including homelessness, increased risk of suicide and veteran health needs to the forefront of public awareness. Because for Tom, showing his patriotism, pride and gratitude didn’t end with his honorable discharge, it’s an everyday act sparked by a desire to do good for all people, evident in his four years with the military, his hospital work with people at their most vulnerable and his continued dedication to serving those who’ve served their country.
Pictured Here: Upper left: Tom with wife, Deb, enjoying time with friends Jan and Gary, fellow American Legion Riders members. Upper Right: Tom and Gary Middle: Tom enjoys riding his motorcycle, especially when riding with the American Legion Riders. Lower Left: Gary & Jan share a passion for each other as well as the American Legion Riders. GATHER Veterans – 11
VETERAN SUPPORTER OF THE YEAR
Coach Tim Wooer Kingsley Stags Football – by Kiersten Gunsberg
Photos by Karen S Lueck at amomentcaptured.net
Veteran Supporter of the Year: Coach Tim Wooer
arine Sgt. Justin Hansen was only 26 when he was killed in action while pursuing a high value target on July 24th, 2012. Though the encounter was fatal, Justin’s last mission proved to be integral to taking down a bomb maker who was responsible for many U.S. casualties in Afghanistan. A member of the Second Marine Special Operations Battalion, Special Operations Command serving overseas, Sgt. Hansen had told his loved ones that if he were to give his life while serving his country, he wanted his former football coach, Tim Wooer, to give his eulogy. So, on a sweltering August afternoon, Tim stood before all those who loved Justin and did just that in the gymnasium where he’d once mentored the fallen soldier. Justin’s mother, Vickie Hays, knew the Kingsley Stag’s football coach and GATHER Veterans – 12
Sgt. Justin Hansen
his family growing up. A few years older than him, she recalls his parents, who were also educators at Kingsley High. Tim’s Dad was a biology teacher while his mom served as a substitute within the school system. Tim has a brother with special needs and grew up always involved in Dean’s care. Tim took a hands on role with his brother’s care right along side his parents. Having grown up in a strong family value system, Tim proved to be dedicated to helping, being a supporter to those in need, and inspiring others to be the best version of themselves. “Tim is an awesome leader because he is all in. He does not sugar coat anything and expects the same level of dedication and commitment from himself that he asks for from his team,” Vickie shared. Teaching a commitment to “others first” has inspired Tim to require community service hours from his football players. Many do the “Justin Road Clean Up” in honor of Vickie’s fallen son and players volunteer at Tim’s family nonprofit, Rainbow of Hope Farm, they began several years back. Vickie remembers, “Justin loved football. He was pretty competitive.” Justin was in his freshman year when Tim came to Kingsley to take charge of their football program. Tim brought new life and a serious level of dedication to the whole program he was now in charge of and had played in himself during high school. Justin and his core group of friends/players were inspired by the passion Tim brought. Justin spent the entire rest of his schooling focusing his activities around football and his team. He wrestled, ran track, and was a powerlifter, but it was all about football and helping him be the best he could be for Coach Wooer and his team.
Vickie said she watched as Tim grew over the years into an impactful leader who lead by example and saw that culminate in a longterm role when he became her son’s coach. Over the years, Justin and Coach Wooer took turns inspiring each other, beginning with Tim creating a football program that engaged players from elementary straight through high school, “Justin was really all on board,” says Vickie, “Because Tim was affirming what Justin believed all along, that this could be an amazing football program.” Indeed, Justin’s dedication to the game seemed like it would carry on past graduation and into college, but when the time came, in 2003, the United States was at war in Iraq and Justin told his mother that he couldn’t “just step back and watch people die and [not] be part of the solution.” Though he went thousands and thousands of miles from where Coach Wooer taught him to be a team player, Justin put those lessons into practice in Afghanistan right up until his last mission. Having served starting in Reconnaissance and then being promoted to a MARSOC (Marine Corp Special Operations Command) Raider role, Justin found himself imbedded with the Afghan locals handling special operation missions. Justin was killed in action in Afghanistan when, after receiving intel that a high value target was close by, his team pursued the target in hopes of apprehending or eliminating him. During the pursuit, Justin was shot by the insurgent. This man was a dwarf, so the angle of the shot went in under Justin’s protective gear. Amazingly, Justin was able to deliver a fatal shot back and take this enemy down before he died. This was a great feat as this
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particular target had been very difficult to hunt due to his size. He had evaded capture and elimination by posing as a child, boy or girl. While Justin lost his life in the operation, he had played an integral part in taking down this guy who had long evaded their attempts to capture or kill him. The season following Justin’s death, Tim was coaching at West Senior High in Traverse City where he was inspired by his friendship with the football player turned hero to create The Patriot Game. Since 2012, the event is a yearly tradition of bringing together West’s Titans, and their opposers, Central High’s Trojans, to a pre-game assembly to commemorate those who serve/served their nation. It features special speakers and, as the Gold Star Mother puts it, “cultivates peace between the players who normally harbor a lot of rivalry towards one another before their usual games.” Together, the teams must put aside their differences and decide jointly which nonprofit to donate the proceeds to raised during the event. This past year the high-schoolers chose Veterans in Crisis, Inc. - a foundation that provides immediate aid to veterans facing financial emergencies across northern Michigan. For Tim, coaching isn’t just about drilling his players on how to win a game, it’s about instilling the importance of looking out for others both on and off the field. It’s those values that he passed on to a teenage Justin that ultimately saved countless American lives. It is our honor to name Coach Wooer, Veteran Supporter of the Year. (Pictured above is Coach Wooer with Justin's Dad.)
subscription to GATHER Magazines makes the perfect Christmas gift for any Old Mission/Grand Traverse County enthusiast! Give them the most compelling stories and discoveries from around Grand Traverse County & Old Mission Peninsula, with GATHER. Each issue they’ll get:
Give a gift subscription today! Subscriptions@gathermediallc.com GATHER Veterans – 14
ift u! o AfG or y
• Phenomenal Photography from around the region • Relevant Content from the communities each magazine serves • Information about events happening around the region • Details of local businesses and the services and products they offer • Reviews of the best venues in the area • A subscription to GATHER makes the perfect gift — and it will last the whole year!
“I do not believe that the men who served in uniform Agent Orange presumptive conditions are: in Vietnam have been given the credit they deserve. It was a difficult war against an unorthodox enemy. •AL amyloidosis ~William Westmoreland •Chloracne or similar acneform disease •Chronic B-cell leukemias •Diabetes mellitus Type 2 •Hodgkin lymphoma, formerly known as Hodgkin’s disease •Ischemic heart disease •Multiple myeloma •Non-Hodgkin lymphoma, formerly known as Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma •Parkinson’s disease Signed into law on June 25, 2019, it will extend •Peripheral neuropathy, early-onset disability benefits covering medical conditions •Porphyria cutanea tarda associated with Agent Orange exposure to those •Prostate cancer who served off the coast of Vietnam known as •Respiratory cancers (lung, bronchus, larynx or “Blue Water” Navy Veterans. Veterans that within trachea) served in Vietnam between January 9, 1962 and •Soft-tissue sarcoma (other than osteosarcoma, May 7, 1975) and served on any vessel during that chondrosarcoma, Kaposi’s sarcoma or time that came within 12 nautical miles off the mesothelioma). coastline of Vietnam. Veterans over age 85 or with life-threatening According to Congress and the illnesses will have priority in claims Department of Veterans Affairs, an processing. estimated 90,000 veterans may Veterans who be eligible for benefits under previously were denied for the law. an Agent Orange related The Act also presumptive condition covers veterans who can file a new claim served in the Korean based on the change in Demilitarized Zone law. Eligible survivors between Sept. 1, 1967, of deceased Blue Water and Aug. 31, 1971, as Navy Veterans also well as children born to may benefit from the veterans who served in new law and may file Thailand between January claims for benefits based 1962 and May 1975 who on the Veterans’ service. have spina bifida.The VA will start approving claims January 1, Please call or visit the Grand 2020. Traverse County Dept. of Veterans Blue Water Navy Veterans are Affair for more information or for assistance encouraged to submit disability compensation in filing a claim. claims for conditions presumed to be related to Agent Orange exposure.
Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019 (H.R. 299)
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GOLD STAR MOM Starla Owens Sgt. Joseph Lancour
– by Jess Laffin –
LAST SUNDAY , September 29th, dozens gathered at
Veteran’s park to celebrate American Gold Star Mother’s Day. The title is not one that is coveted by military mom’s, but is worn with honor and pride by those that have it stowed upon them. Starla Owens earned her Gold Star mother’s title on November 10th, 2007, when she was given the news that her son Joe would not be returning home from Afghanistan, as he had lost his life in the line of duty. Joe is remembered for being fun-loving, outgoing, and down-to-earth. Though in many ways he was your, “typical boy” growing up, liking Hot Wheels cars, skateboarding, sports and music of all kinds. “He had the
kindest heart,” his mother said. “He cared more about others than he did about himself.” She laughingly recalls a specific incident where Joe fashioned himself a pair of duct tape shoes to save the family money when he really needed sneakers. Even from a young age, it was clear that he put others before himself. Searching for structure and a sense of belonging, Joe enlisted into the Army before even telling his mother it was officially his plan. She was not and is not angry at him for doing so; she is beaming proud of her only son, which shines through brightly when she speaks of him. She does recall discussing the matter with her sister, however, asking, “Doesn’t he know there’s a war going on?”
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He did know, in fact, but had a strong sense of duty, and, true to his spirit, he wanted to give. “Spreading his wings and flying was what he wanted to do,” his mother said. In her healing process, Starla became more aware of what being a Gold Star parent really means and that there was a need for public awareness on the matter. More so, she learned that there were countless parents and family members out there that needed help, needed belonging, needed a safe, understanding place to remember their loved ones and and share stories. Starla began reaching out, working and networking and now stands as the president of Northern Michigan Blue to Gold Star Mothers. As such, it is Starla’s vision for the organization to remain a prosperous resource for recovery for mothers and family members of the fallen, financially and emotionally. In 2017 the organization and our community raised $60,000 toward a Gold Star Mothers statue, located at Veteran’s park in Traverse City. In the future, the organization plans to continue ceremonies and/or programs similar to the one she spoke at on the 29th, as well as hosting a Gold Mother’s Retreat in 2021, with hopes of a Gold Star father’s retreat in 2022 and a family retreat shortly thereafter. Starla honors her son’s giving nature by helping and checking on veterans and their families whenever possible. It is her daily mission to spread awareness of Gold Star families and honor and remember each of the lost and fallen, and ultimately, to spread love and hope. Joe is remembered dearly through his comrades, whom he had the utmost respect for, his dear friends and his loved ones. Joe’s many nieces and nephews keep their Grandma Starla very busy when she is not hard at work with the organization, helping them and others to heal, continuing to remind all that freedom is not free. Please visit blue2goldstars.com for more information on how to help or seek help. Lest we forget, and help when we can.
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GATHER Veterans – 17
BEHIND THE BRAND
GTC Dept. of Veteran Affairs
Veterans Serving Veterans
HONORING ALL WHO SERVED
ICHAEL ROOF Director
When did you start working at GTC VA? I started as Director of GTC VA January 2018. I was Superintendent of Veterans Assistance Commission of Kankakee County from 2012 -2018. Both offices were county offices to assist veterans and their dependents with local, state and VA benefits. What do you like most about your job? I love the fact that we make positive changes to people’s lives. We can get them benefits to help
them become more financially secure. We can connect them with healthcare options to give them a healthier life. Did you serve in the military? If so, what branch and what did you do? US Marine Corps. I was a PMI - Primary Marksman Instructor in Okinawa, Japan. What are your interests and hobbies? I am married to Jaclyn, have four children: Forrest, Nathan, Abby and Adelyn and two grandchildren: Bentley and Audrina. I enjoy yard work and seeing the changes that it creates year to year. Being new to Northern Michigan, I love that there is so much outdoor stuff to explore year round.
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I started my career helping veterans in 2012. I was appointed Superintendent of the Veterans Assistance Commission of Kankakee County. It was a county office set up to assist veterans and their dependents with acquiring any benefits due to them. My first major claim win was a Vietnam veteran would we denied for almost 47 years. I was able to upgrade his discharge status and get him a 100% rating. It was huge win for him and his spouse. “I was able to see firsthand the changes in his self-esteem being acknowledged for all that he went through those 47 years. It made my internal fire of compassion burn even hotter to help people.” In 2015, I worked with 21st Circuit Judge Wenzleman to start Kankakee County’s Veterans Treatment Court where veterans who are charged with a crime are given treatment instead of jail time. Seeing veterans who are affected with substance issues or mental disorders come into the program and make recovery a priority is awesome. Those court programs actually save lives! January 3, 2018, I arrived as the Director of Grand Traverse County ready to make huge changes in helping veterans here. My major focus has always been on maximizing our office’s reach to ALL veterans. Not even two years in, and I am part of the 86th Circuit Court in founding a Veterans Treatment Court. I will be the Veterans Mentor Coordinator for the program. I guess you can say mentors are like AA Sponsors or Battle Buddies. They are there to talk and assist the justice-involved veteran in navigating available resources throughout their recovery. This program is scheduled to launch in 2020. How can we make an impact for veterans? By being Stronger Together! Our office can’t possibly reach all the veterans by just answering the office phones. We partner with various organizations to help spread the word. GATHER Veterans is another way that our office is working with community resources to get the maximum reach to those who earned benefits for their service.
ICHAEL REDMOND Office Specialist
When did you start at GTCVA? My official first day was March 12, 2018. What do you like most about your job? Helping Veterans, especially
Veterans in crisis and those lost in the VA system. It is a very rewarding feeling helping someone get through the often complicated system, or finding them aid for an unexpected financial emergency. Not only as a fellow veteran do I enjoy this, but also as a social worker. Did you serve in the military? If so, what branch and what did you do? I served in the Army and Michigan Army National Guard from January 1991-January 2002. What are your interests and hobbies? Out-of-doors is where I find my solace. I enjoy hiking, kayaking, biking, camping, hunting and fishing.
RANDON CORBIN Veteran Service Officer
When did you start working at VA (what did you do before)? My last position was as a career adviser with Northwest Michigan Works!, specializing as a veteran career adviser. What do you like most about your job? Engaging with fellow veterans and carrying on the military tradition of never leaving a soldier behind. Did you serve in the military? If so, what branch and what did you do? Yes, I served in the Army for 13 years, my MOS was 11B. What are your interests and hobbies? Enjoying time with my family, sports, big Lions fan, and anything outdoors. I am starting to learn wood working as a hobby.
Photos by Tiffany Clarke - Highland Street Photography Our Dept. of Veteran Affairs office is located in Grand Traverse County, Michigan, but they assist veterans from the bordering counties of Antrim, Kalkaska, Leelanau, Wexford, Benzie, Missaukee and Manistee counties and others that travel to Traverse City by way of employment. According to the VA’s GDX, that is a representation of over 15,000 veterans just for this area alone!! The GATHER Veterans publication will be distributed to these and other offices throughout Northern Michigan.
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UCAS CLARK Veteran Service Officer
When did you start at GTCVA? May 2018 What do you like most about your job? Being able to help Veterans navigate the VA and being able to advocate on their behalf. What branch and what did you do in service? United States Army, Calvary Scout. What are your interests and hobbies? I enjoy taking my dog for walks, hunting, fishing, and marksmanship.
HRISTOPHER DAILEY Veteran Service Officer
When did you start at GTCVA? July 2017 What do you like most about your job? I am a veteran who gets to be in a position to help veterans every day I come to work. There is nothing more satisfying than to ensure your brothers are taken care and looked after. Did you serve in the military? If so, what branch and what did you do? US ARMY as a 45B Small Arms Specialist. I would repair and modify small arms, mortars, and even towed artillery. What are your interests and hobbies? I am interested in history and always have a thirst for continued education. I also like hiking, camping, and other outdoor activities with my wife and children.
not able to see you right away. Office hours are 8-4:30pm Monday – Friday. Our office is here to be the veteran’s advocate in navigating benefits. Without county offices like ours, veteran would have to deal directly with the Veterans Affairs Regional Office in Detroit. We will assist the claimant in filling out the proper forms and gathering all other documentation to make a fully developed claim.
VETERANS BENEFITS • Disability Compensation • Dependency & Indemnity Compensation (DIC) • Non-service connected pension • Survivor’s Pension • Aid & Attendance Benefits • Healthcare Enrollment • Vocational Rehab & Employment • Michigan Veteran’s Homes applications • Federal burial benefits • Help for homeless veterans • Emergency Financial Assistance • County Burial Allowance • Michigan Veterans’ Trust Fund We are located at 2650 Lafranier Rd, Traverse City, MI Phone 231-995-6069
OFFICE OVERVIEW The Grand Traverse County Veterans Affairs Office strives to provide professional assistance to veterans and their families with understanding and accessing available benefits through Federal, State of Michigan and local government agencies. Our office provides services to residents of Grand Traverse, and Leelanau Counties. We have four Veteran Service Officers who are accredited with the VA’s Office of General Counsel to assist in filing claims. It is always preferred that people call to make an appointment as our VSOs might be in appointments and GATHER Veterans – 2 0
COMMUNITY BASED OUTPATIENT CLINICS Connect With Us At: www.saginaw.va.gov - www.facebook.com/VASaginaw www.va.gov VA CBOC (Community Based Outpatient Clinic) Alpena 180 N. State Avenue 989-356-8720
Vet Center 3766 N. US 31 South Traverse City 231-935-0051
Bad Axe 1142 S. Van Dyke Rd, suite 100 989-497-2500 ext 15602
Grayling 1680 Hartwick Dr 989-344-2002
Cadillac 1909 N. Mitchell Street 231-775-4401 ext 11410
Oscoda 5671 Skeel Ave, sute 4 989-747-0026 Ext 11411
Cheboygan County (Mackinaw) 14540 Mackinaw Highway 231-436-5176
Traverse City 3271 Racquet Club Dr 231-932-9720 Ext 11412
Clare 11775 N. Isabella Rd 989-386-8113 Ex 13530
Grand Traverse VA Clinic Physical Therapy and Mental Health 880 Munson 800-406-5143 Ext 13653
Gaylord 806 S. Otsego 989-732-7525 Ext 13520
Aleda E. Lutz VA Medical Center 1500 Weiss Street Saginaw, MI 800-406-5143
Aleda E. Lutz VA Medical Center 1500 Weiss Street, Saginaw, MI VA Healthcare Annex 4241 Barnard Road, Saginaw, MI - (800) 406-5143
We invite you to sign-up for our periodic e-mail & website updates by visiting ourwebpage and subscribing with
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BAYSHORE MARATHON VETERAN RUNS FOR MISSION 22 OMP Resident Rhonda Busch’s Nephew Tim Fair – by Kierstin Gunsberg –
n the three and a half decades since it’s 1983 debut, Bayshore Marathon participants have stretched under the shade of Northwestern Michigan College’s sprawling tree lines before setting off along the Old Mission Peninsula. The early morning race is held every Memorial Day weekend and draws thousands of runners from all across the midwest to overcome the 26+ mile loop from Eastern Avenue up to Bluff Road and back down again. For longtime OMP residents, Rhonda and Bob Busch and their children Elizabeth and Bob, the event is a beloved yearly tradition, a day carved out to gather with friends and family at the sidelines, cheering their support as racers careen against the breeze off East Grand Traverse Bay. Over the years, as the family’s children grew so did the party, taking in significant others including Tim “Timmy” Fair, a U.S. Army Veteran who served in Iraq and who had begun dating their niece, Erin. As the Busch’s got to know Tim, Rhonda quickly noted that “Tim and his family are some of the most patriotic individuals I’ve ever encountered.” Eventually, the young couple married and Tim,
who resides in Mt. Pleasant, became a staple in the family’s up north Bayshore weekend. No longer satisfied with participating as a spectator, Tim, along with his friend and fellow veteran Nick Kannawin signed up in 2018 for their first Bayshore with a very specific cause in mind — raising money to donate to Mission 22. The foundation is based in Oregon and focuses on raising awareness of veteran issues and providing treatment for veterans at risk of suicide. Initially, Tim and Nick hoped to raise $1,000 for Mission 22, spending the months leading up to the race rising extra early to hit the gym, lugging forty pound rucksacks on long hikes to build up their stamina and pushing their every limit to prepare for the marathon. Within the first month the duo had raised their $1,000 goal and every time they upped it, their communities, including the Busch’s own Old Mission neighbors made sure it was met within days. “This was truly a team effort with Tim leading our team,” says Rhonda. Indeed, as the family once again geared up this past year for Tim and Nick’s second Bayshore, Erin, Tim and their families coordinated the day right down to who would drive Erin and the
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couple’s three children to the finish line in time to see their husband and father cross it. When the day arrived, the whole group shared a mix of anxiety and excitement. It was a cool, misty morning but as the day warmed Tim and Nick found themselves reaching mile after mile of support from their friends and family on the sidelines, just as they had in the months of preparation leading up to their race weekend. Rhonda and the crew were at the ready to hand over water and snacks as the men passed by, explaining that the pride they all felt for Tim and Nick and their drive to give back to their fellow veterans “was overwhelming.” The Busch’s Bayshore party has transformed from a festive get together to a reminder of what communities can accomplish when they come together. Over their two years running the Bayshore, Tim and Nick have raised upwards of $30,000 for veterans which, through Mission 22 will be used to bring awareness to and aid veterans who are dealing with post traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries.
To sign up for the annual Bayshore Marathon, visit BayShoreMarathon.org and to find out how you too can raise money for veterans visit mission22.com
"FROM MY OFFICE" JULY 8, 2019 Coast Guard Commander Change – by John Russell – The U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Traverse City celebrated a change of command. Cmdr Nathan Coulter handed over the reigns of the command to Cmdr Charles Webb. Commander Coulter has been assigned to Seattle, Washington and attained the rank of Captain after the change of command. Capt Coulter has flown over 4,000 hours and is highly decorated for his service and bravery. Commander Charles Webb comes once again to Traverse City, transferring from Air Station Atlantic City, NJ. With over 6,800 hours in four different aircraft, Cmdr Webb and his family are excited to return to Traverse City, where he began is Coast Guard career. Fair winds and following seas, Capt Coulter. Traverse City will miss you and your wonderful family. - Photography Great Lakes Images GATHER Veterans – 2 3
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