Manila Veterans Benefit Seminar draws large crowd
Manila Veterans Benefit Seminar held March 19 at the Manila Airport Center was a great success with 156 veterans attending; 22 service providers; 36 staff workers; 11 speakers and numerous volunteers who helped with the day. In addition, the mobile Veteran's Center van was in Manila.
Rosemary Sandusky of Manila got the program started several weeks ago in an effort to assist veterans and spouses on services available.
It was a joint effort bringing together local, county, state and national representatives.
County Veteran's Service Officers assisting with the project included Larry Robinson, White County; Mickey Littlejohn, Crittenden County; Terry Long, Poinsett County; Jim Dixon, Mississippi County, and Vermalene Smith, Craighead County.
Tim Sandusky served as master of ceremonies for the event.
Mayor Wayne Wagner welcomed everyone to Manila.
"I was here for the dedication of this building in 1993," Mayor Wagner said. "It was beautiful then but it has never looked more beautiful than today with the red, white and blue on display. The constitution may have been written in Philadelphia but it has been defended through the years by small town America."
He went on to praise all the veterans and the area Congressional Medal recipients.
"They are my veterans, your veterans and our veterans," Mayor Wagner said. "I am honored to welcome you. God bless America."
Veterans Ray Dill led in the Pledge of Allegiance to the American flag, and Judy Hampton sang the National Anthem. Rev. Jerry Pentecost gave the introductions.
Sandusky made introductions welcoming Dave Wallace, Arkansas State Representative District 54; Randy Carney, Mississippi County judge; and Dale Cook Mississippi County sheriff. He also recognized Arkansas State Senator District 15 David Burnett and Arkansas State Representative District 54 Monte Hall.
Also on hand for the day were representatives from the office of Sen. John Boozman; the secretary of state's office; Congressman Rick Crawford's office. Among others there for the veterans were Arkansas Department of Veterans Affairs, Little Rock, John Dugan; Compensation, Pension, Dependents Identity Compensation, Little Rock Office, Jay Mergenchroer; VA Medical Center, Memphis, Donna Savoy; Jonesboro Community Outreach Clinic, Jonesboro, Crystal Gilbert; Health Care for Homeless Veterans, Memphis, Amy Jones; Disabled Veterans Outreach Program specialist, Jonesboro, Rich Norris; Arkansas State Veterans Cemetery, Birdeye, Mark Frank; VA Clergy Partnership of Rural Veterans, Little Rock, H. Michael Barnes; Arkansas Community Dispute Resolution Center, Inc., Angelia Tolbert, executive director; Arkansas State University, Small Business Development Center, Laura Miller; Small Business Administration, Fayetteville, Edward Haddock, director; Arkansas Northeastern College, Blytheville, Ketierra Jones: Beck Pride Center, Lynda Nash; Heroes with Hearing Loss, Little Rock, Michelle Boyd; VA Center, Memphis, Don Moore; My Healthy Vet, Memphis, Barry W. Powell, Jr.; PTSD Disorder, Memphis VA, Michelle Bowen: OEF/OIF/OND, Memphis VA, Arthur Johnson; Suicide Prevention, Memphis VA, Renee Brown; The Women's Center, Memphis VA, Wynette Nolan; Delta Dental, California, Douglas Elsesser; Workforce, Paragould, Dave Slochowsky; Goodwill Industries of AR, Jonesboro, Jennifer Francomano; Mid South Health, Matt Knight; Area Agency on Aging, Cartha Crockett; Arkansas Elks Association, Deborah Parsons; Veterans Home Care, Sarah Akin; Disabled American Veterans, Jonesboro, Bill Cribbs, commander; Disabled American Veterans, State Commander Dan Hall; Westminster Village, Blytheville, Leslie Acred; Superior Senior Care, and Absolute Care Management.
Other area veteran leaders attending were Charles Willmuth, Manila Post commander, and Keith Puluso 5th District commander.
Rep. Dave Wallace, a veteran, thanked the city of Manila for doing a great job of hosting the event.
"Freedom isn't free," Rep. Wallace said. "You all know it isn't free. You stood your watch. Many have wounds, physical and mental. Many of us left comrades behind, killed in action. In their youth they made the ultimate sacrifice. Giving back to the veterans is important. There are folks here who can help you. Growing up, all I wanted to be was a soldier. I was a lucky man. I got to do what I wanted to do. Served 21 years. I flew Cobras in Vietnam. Veterans truly are a band of brothers."
He said it is easy for veterans to put things in the back of their minds.
"Open up today, people are here to help you," Rep. Wallace said. "We have a veterans' coalition in the House of Representatives to pass laws to help veterans. Through the years I have spent time helping veterans down the path to get benefits. It is a journey. The VA tries but there are thousands of requests."
He stressed good documentation and records as the first step for benefits.
Mississippi County Judge Randy Carney welcomed everyone to Mississippi County.
"Mississippi County is a special place," Judge Carney said. "We have great people, great minds, great hearts, great churches, great industries, and great agriculture. In the next five to seven years Mississippi County will be the industrial capital of the state."
He went on to talk about the future of Mississippi County.
"God bless Arkansas and God bless you," Judge Carney said.
Sheriff Dale Cook, a veteran of Desert Storm, spoke encouraging all of the veterans to utilize the information being offered at the seminar.
"There are good people here today to help," Sheriff Cook said. "I salute all of the veterans. You have all paid a price, others have paid the ultimate price so we can enjoy our freedom. I want to commend and salute you."
In addition to the City of Manila, other sponsors for the event were Atlas Asphalt of Jonesboro; Craighead County Veterans Monument Foundation; and Major Bills, all of Jonesboro.
Food sponsors were Kroger, Walmart, Arkansas Elks Association, all of Jonesboro; Farmers Market, Sandusky Sales, and Manila Business Women's Club, all of Manila; Hays and Walmart of Blytheville.
Door prizes were provided by the First United Methodist Church of Jonesboro; Atlas Asphalt of Jonesboro-Jim Fulkerson-Medal of Honor Book; and 1812 Pizza of Manila.
Manila High School students provided graphic arts/signs for the event.
Davis Smith videoed the event.
She lost her husband, a veteran, Leonard Sandusky, recently and it made her want to help others.
"The best way to deal with grief is doing something for others," Mrs. Sandusky said.
She also expressed her appreciation to everyone who volunteered to help making the seminar such a success and hopes veterans and spouses were helped during the day.