Issues important to Iowa veterans – like housing, healthcare and other military benefits – were the center of attention for the annual Veterans Day at the Capital in Des Moines on Wednesday. State lawmakers were joined by 20 organizations that set up shop in the rotunda to inform veterans about the many services on offer.
Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds gave a progress report on the state's Home Base Iowa program, an initiative that pairs veterans with careers that utilize their skills and experience, 13 WHO, the local news station, reported. Since 2013, Home Base Iowa has assisted about 1,700 veterans in finding long-term employment. There's still a long way to go if the goal of 7,500 is to be reached, however.
Despite the progress made in the last few years, Ronnie Murray, an Air Force veteran, says it isn't good enough. Murray has taken it upon himself to do something for his fellow veterans by launching the Empowerment Center, a project offering services no hospital or doctor's office can match.
"I don't think we can depend on the hospital for everything," Murray told 13 WHO. "I believe the veterans that have been blessed to navigate their way through the darkness have a responsibility to reach back and help other veterans."
The Empowerment Center will be a one-stop-shop for counseling, support and resources run by veterans for veterans.
Murray's reason for opening the center is a personal one. Entering his life after service proved difficult, and he fought against post-traumatic stress disorder and depression for a number of years. Talking to fellow veterans and heeding their counsel proved the solution. He hopes that the center will alleviate the pressure put on Iowa VA hospitals.
"The veterans who put their life on the line … they need the community to help make them well in any way possible," said Murray.
Current plans call for the center to be open by August.