We’ve previously said struggling veterans groups in the Cedar Valley need to work together. Now the Black Hawk County veteran affairs director and a local businessman have given them the chance.
Cedar Valley veterans organizations are supporting a plan to locate a veterans drop-in service center at Clark & Associates, 537 Park Lane.
Black Hawk County Veteran Affairs Director Kevin Dill recently proposed the idea and invited all veterans groups to participate.
Representatives of those groups welcomed the opportunity.
“It’s a minimal cost, but it’s going to be a great benefit for veterans,” said Steve Grimm, retired Waterloo firefighter, trustee of Becker-Chapman American Legion Post 138 in Waterloo and member of its Sons of Legion organization.
Dill and Dennis Clark of Clark & Associates said donations of money, furnishings, equipment and labor already have been offered. The two were brought together by veteran Terry Scheffert, a member of several veterans organizations who previously operated a veterans resource center at the Cedar Falls AMVETS post.
Organizers envision a career center, counseling location and place for veterans to relax with peers. Food would be available but no alcohol. It also would serve veterans’ families. Details such as staffing and hours of operation are yet to be worked out. Clark said he would consult with neighbors, including the nearby Friendship Village retirement community, and work with city officials to obtain any necessary approvals.
Dill cited an urgent need for such a facility. He said he’s had to “talk down” veterans coming to his office contemplating suicide. Those veterans need immediate help, he said, and a drop-in center could provide it.
“If we can save one marriage, one life,” it will be worth it, Clark said.
The center could give veterans, particularly younger ones, a sense of belonging, Clark said. He and Dill said the community must act to reduce veteran suicides and help those struggling with PTSD, employment and other issues.
Dill said veterans posts are struggling in part because some see them as little more than bars offering little help and using donations to support buildings and operations. Grimm said a drop-in center would offer a chance for all posts to help veterans.
“We’re spinning our wheels,” said Randy Miller of the Waterloo AMVETS, which was forced to sell its post several years ago and now meets at Memorial Hall.
We hope the proposal by Dill, Clark and Scheffert gains traction. We encourage the veterans groups to continue the dialogue and work with Clark and for the general public to support it. Details such as staffing, access and hours of operation need to be worked out.
But it’s a good first step. We’d like to see all veterans organizations in Waterloo, Cedar Falls, Evansdale and the Cedar Valley support it. We believe it will receive widespread public support — much as Cedar Valley Honor Flight has — and connect younger veterans with traditional veterans posts and make each more involved and supportive of the other.
As Benjamin Franklin said, “We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.” That’s as true for modern-day patriots as it was for our democracy’s founders.