CONWAY — The Manchester Veterans Affairs Medical Center held an informational fair for veterans on Friday, March 29 at the North Conway Grand Hotel.
The purpose of the event, said Kristin Pressly, public affairs officer for the Manchester VA Medical Center, “was to engage veterans that may not have been engaged in health care and to recognize veterans for their service. We want to make sure they have the services they need.”
Veterans were able to find out what services they qualify for and to enroll for services.
Conway has its own VA Medical Outpatient Clinic, located at 71 Hobbs St. in Conway. The clinic, staffed by doctors, nurses and social workers, offers primary care, preventive health, laboratory work, mental health, women’s health telehealth and referals to other VA services.
About 100 people attended the event, which featured resource tables with information on clinical video telehealth, care in the community, services available in Conway and Manchester, homeless outreach, women’s health suicide prevention and other resources provided by the VA.
The event opened with a welcome home and recognition ceremony for Vietnam veterans who live in the region. All Vietnam veterans were encouraged to take part in the ceremony.
The Manchester VA has been holding veteran recognition ceremonies on a regular basis around to the state “to make sure every veteran is recognized, welcomed home and thanked for their service,” she said.
As part of the event, Manchester VA Director Alfred Montoya Jr., presented Cassie Gilmore, wife of retired Army Capt. Ray Gilmore III, with the Director’s Community Partnership Award for her work with and on behalf of veterans.
Reading the award citation, Montoya said: “Cassie Gilmore is a veteran’s spouse, caregiver, mother tireless veteran advocate, small business owner and masters prepared educator. As a spouse of a veteran, Cassie is mindful of the challenges that come with service and keeps a watchful eye out for veterans in the Mount Washington Valley area. She understands the signs of PTSD and suicide ideation and stays in close contact with veterans and their families, always ready to be of assistance when needed. Cassie dedicates her time and insights to the creation of resources and supports of other families coping with PTSD. Her efforts are veteran- and family-centric, navigational in nature and focusing on healing for all.
“Cassie her family have opened up their home to help veterans during times of transition. They also started a community garden that supplements produce for 15 families. With the support of Cassie the VA has met with veterans who would not otherwise come to the medical center for their care.
“Today we are rewriting our story and rebuilding trust with veterans and the Manchester VA the Conway area. Cassie Gilmore, as a direct result of your efforts many veterans and their families have been positively impacted. You are to be commended for your advocacy on behalf of veterans.
There were also presentations on services available at the Conway clinic, telehealth (receiving medical services from doctors and other medical professionals over the internet), post-traumatic stress disorder and its impact on families, whole health or wellness, and recreation therapy.
Camp Resilience was one of the programs featured at the open house. The camp provides retreats for veterans
Recreation therapy is one of the newest programs added by the Manchester VA, with the goal of improving the quality of life of veterans by identifying and providing recreation and leisure programs.
The idea is that recreation promotes physical, cognitive, social and emotional wellbeing. Benefits include helping reduce stress, anxiety and depression, building confidence and recovering basic motor functioning.
The program works with adaptive sports programs to help expand the recreation opportunities for disabled veterans, but Pressly said that the recreation program is not just for disabled veterans or those with medical needs; it is open to all.
Programs are available throughout the state and range from golf and horticulture to yoga and adventure sports.
In addition to physical and mental health services for veterans, the VA also provides benefits for caregivers, often family members, who take care of veterans in need.
Pressly said the VA is hoping to see more people sign up for services.
One of the big challenges for the VA, she said, is getting veterans to take advantages of the benefits to which they are entitled. “They’ve served. Now it’s our turn to serve them,” she said.
“It’s exciting to see so many opportunites available,” she said. “What I hear consistently is veterans don’t know about them.”
“This is all part of building a community that supports veterans. The VA being here is important because the VA wants to be part of the veterans community,” she said.