In early 2009, the Oregon National Guard deployed over 2,700 troops which were stationed across Iraq for a variety of duties including convoy security. It was the largest single deployment for the state since World War II. Recognizing that these troops would need to be reintegrated upon their return, Oregon’s Legislature created a task force to build a reintegration system to enable troops to get services regardless of where they located upon their return. These services were to remain available for the duration of the 36 month reintegration period.
This kind of forward thinking has made the Oregon National Guard’s system for reintegration of returning veterans the best in the nation. Despite that recognition and the number of states which have come to Oregon to study the system, the Legislature and the National Guard have pledged to continue upgrading and improving the program.
The challenges facing returning veterans are varied and numerous including:
- Emotional disabilities such as PTSD
- Physical disabilities including loss of limb, head trauma, and orthopedic injuries
- Domestic problems
- Financial distress
Oregon’s reintegration program tackles these issues and others in the effort to help returning veterans start their lives again, reunite with their families, gain job skills, and find employment. To accomplish this daunting task the program has partnered with communities, education, and other members to provide needs analysis, support, and solutions. The Guard holds reintegration summits two times per year to cover the challenges of returning veterans and the solutions to those issues. Additional topics at these summits include benefits, education, housing, and other veteran related issues.
Returning veterans involved in the reintegration program have the following services available:
- Suicide prevention
- Domestic violence counseling
- Assistance with education and licensing including vocational training
- Health care
- Financial assistance
- Maximizing veteran benefits including disability compensation
To enable the program to broaden its services and provide the maximum of assistance to returning veterans, Oregon’s reintegration task force is now focusing on partnership building. Potential partners include the Veterans Administration, nonprofit/faith based organizations, state agencies, local government, other veterans groups, colleges, and universities.
The commitment made by the State of Oregon to assist its returning veterans sets an example which should be followed across the nation. For the veterans who put their lives on the line to preserve our way of life, we can do nothing less.