By Michael Bacos
Bridging the gap between military and civilian can be challenging for veterans transitioning out of the service.
The 2015 Welcome Home Warrior Summit at the UIC Pavilion on Saturday helped veterans find the support and organizations they need to ease the transition.
Government agencies, employment services, not-for-profits and university representatives gave veterans the resources they need to create successful post-military lives.
Army veteran James J. Flagg created the Warrior Summit Coalition based on his own frustrations with the Veterans Administration while attending the University of Illinois-Chicago. He said he encountered delays in receiving tuition benefits under the GI Bill.
“In a six months timeframe, we created a task force at UIC’s campus that centralized all services for military vets,” Flagg said.
It is that philosophy that led to the creation of the Welcome Home Warrior Summit.
Government agencies including Governor Bruce Rauner’s office and the Cook County Recorder of Deeds were present to educate veterans of their potential state benefits. Non-profit organizations were also there to give veterans a way to continue service to the community after the military. When some veterans leave the service, they may feel a loss of purpose.
Organizations such as The Mission Continues connects veterans and the communities to tackle various projects together. For instance, The Mission Continues volunteers trained other veterans and their families on CPR techniques.
The goal is to integrate veterans within a community while fulfilling their desire to serve a greater good.
Veterans can still face a tough time with post-military life and even transitions such as talking to other civilians.
“The customs that we’re so used to while in the service, you have to get that mentality out of your head,” said Marine vet John Aranda. “The way we interacted with each other in the military is something we can’t do in the civilian world.”