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from GRIEVING to GIVING

New program helps veterans, families

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POLSON – More than 120 people, which included veterans, their families and Gold Star family members, gathered in Polson at the Red Lion Inn on Saturday evening to honor local veterans and learn about the range of veteran and veteran families services that will be provided through Welcome Home Inc., a newly formed Mission Valley non-profit veterans organization. 

“Tonight is a chance to come together, get to know each other, listen and learn,” said Welcome Home Inc. president William “Bill” Butler.

After experiencing the tragedy of losing their son in the service of his country a little more than four years ago, Bill and Jeannie started Welcome Home Inc. They opened in March in hopes of helping others cope with the feelings of loneliness and difficulties associated with personal loss as they try and assimilate back into civilian life.

“After losing our son, a big part of me died,” Bill said. “I felt very, very alone at that point of time. I got stuck in that grief for years. This year, I finally decided it was time to snap out of it. And, with the few years I have left, form a non-profit based around the veterans, veteran families, Gold Star families and the public.”

While there are many veteran-focused nonprofits and community groups, not all offer the service opportunities veterans are looking for, Bill said. Welcome Home Inc. is designed to help fill the gaps in mental health, education, medical and financial services offered by other veterans support organizations.

“It’s an important thing to have a group in the community come together to help our veterans,” said Ron Catlett, northwest field representative for U.S. Senator Steve Daines. “There is only so much that the government can do. It’s wonderful to see a community group come together to form this nonprofit to help our veterans.”  

Welcome Home Inc. seeks to help veterans and their families deal with the mental, emotional and physical aspects of readjusting to civilian life. According to the Welcome Home Inc. website, some of the services offered to veterans and their families will include assistance with drug detoxification and family and spousal counseling. 

The organization also plans to celebrate a soldier’s return home and honors their service by organizing and paying for a welcome home party when the veteran is discharged. They will also provide assistance to veterans in finding meaningful employment and/or unemployment benefits, along with medical, educational or disability benefits by acting as a facilitator with the VA Administration. Welcome Home Inc. will assist veterans, their families or Gold Star family members with social or recreational events such as boating, animal therapy, camping, sport shooting, golfing, parades, support groups or any other activity that brings temporary relief to the trauma of military service and aid the veteran or family member.

Veterans also get a chance to continue practicing the service instilled in them in the military by helping with programs. “We aim to do whatever we can by providing friendship, comradeship, somebody to talk to, somebody who lived through it,” Butler said. “I don’t want any veteran ever again feeling alone after coming out of service; that’s why (we have) the tag line 'welcome home, never alone.'” 

To participate in the program, learn more or donate, visit www.welcomehomevet.net.

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