New club President Mike Gertner opened the meeting. Richard Sweeney led the prayer, expressing his appreciation of our members efforts to place others needs above their own, to serve others, and to accept everyone regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, or other attributes. He asked God to support relatives of recently deceased member, Buddy Ryan. Fran Murphy led the pledge.
Mike thanked Ken Dufour for his terrific job leading the July 15th meeting in Mike’s absence. Mike welcomed new member Andrew Shortt. Mike invited members to bring significant others (they pay) to the next meeting and noted widows of recently departed members are also invited (free.) Dr. Bob Wood will present “The Truth about UFOs.” Aliens not invited.
Ross Stewart introduced the speaker, Cory Vigil, Veteran Service Officer at The American Legion’s Newport Harbor Post and Lead Peer Navigator for Strong Families Strong Children (SFSC).
Cory served two four-year terms (1996- 2000 and 2002-2006) as a Navy Corpsman, working as a medic for the Marines’ infantry. He loved serving his country and appreciates that the challenges he faced enable him to sympathize with struggling active duty and veterans. He is acutely aware of the toll on a serviceman’s family. He also lived the hardships of transitioning to and the value of critical needs assistance.
Cory’s transition was very successful. He obtained his bachelor’s degree and is working on his masters. He has dedicated his life to improving the lives of active duty, veterans, and their families, through his volunteering and employment at SFSC. All Orange County non-profits serving veterans work with American Legion’s Local Post 291, making Cory’s role as Veteran Service Office very important and time consuming. He manages the strict application process to vet out deserving beneficiaries.
Cory also assists incarcerated veterans in a HUMV unit at the Orange County jail. Although the HUMV’s 19% success rate seems low, Cory finds this effort valuable if anyone benefits. For two years, including during the pandemic, Cory was Chair of the Orange County Veteran and Military Families Collaborative (OCVMF), the um- brella coalition of more than 100 organizations collaborating to provide comprehensive services to Orange County active duty, veterans, and their families. OCVMF studies trends in, and fights against, homelessness. Currently, 285 veterans are homeless, a big improvement from 800 two years ago.
Cory has helped veterans find employment. Many veterans experience joblessness because of dishonorable discharges,
hampering their ability to access housing, mental health, and other resources. He cautioned us to withhold judgment of those with dishonorable discharges. Many served respectably for years, but act out with drugs, alcohol, or other misconduct because of the stresses involved. Fortunately, Veterans Legal Institute has helped many obtain honorable discharges.
Cory is Lead Peer Navigator at SFSC, one of country’s most respected and innovative veteran services organizations. SFSC’s mission is to improve the health and well-being of veterans, military families, and children throughout Orange County by creating safer, more stable home environments. SFSC gives this support at no charge, regardless of length of service, type of discharge, rate of disability, financial need, or marital status.
SFSC is a community-based collaborative of five non-profit agencies. SFSC acts as the lead organization and draws support from the Child Guidance Center, Human Options, Veterans Legal Institute, Children and Family Futures, and Families Forward. All SFSC staff are military or married to military. SFSC finds it’s easier for veterans to open up to military connected people who can relate to their experiences.
Child Guidance Center, SFSC’s main provider, helps SFSC clients achieve better balanced lives through behavioral and mental health services. Human Options affords counseling to SFSC families facing domestic violence. Veterans Legal Institute assists with legal issues, except criminal, including housing, disability compensation, wills, problems with the VA. Children and Family Futures focuses on children of veterans who were impacted by their parent’s deployment. If someone is uncomfortable with the VA, Families Forward is an alternative for adult counseling and excellent at expediting housing.
Cory gave examples of SFSC services. A study conducted several years ago examined why so many veterans are homeless. One finding was because of financial illiteracy. Consequently, after leaving the military, many lose housing and employment and accumulate debt. SFSC offers financial literacy resources, helps clients prepare for and find employment, and places them in housing. SFSC provides one on one, confidential assessments followed by appropriate individual or family counseling services. SFSC connects with schools to help military children with learning difficulties.
Fortunately, SFSC successfully operated during the pandemic, as it already had Zoom for families without transportation to receive in person counseling. SFSC receives funding from various organizations including Hoag Hospital, the Orange County Community Foundation, the Orange County Health Agency, and more.
Cory was asked why the VA doesn’t offer all services that SFSC does.
Cory replied the VA is only authorized to directly help veterans, not their families. He was also asked whether he sees an improvement in mental health and family issues. Overall, he believes yes. However, he thinks that while their systems are set up well for combat veterans or military sexual trauma victims, they are not for non-combat veterans. Consequently, there is a significant amount of non-combat veterans committing suicide. He believes many non-combat servicemen entered the military with mental health issues that were exacerbated by their military experience. Further, non-combat servicemen do not typically bond as well with fellow servicemen as combat servicemen and can feel like outsiders. Diane Daruty, ed.
DATE / SPEAKER / SUBJECT
Jul 29 - Spouses Day to hear our famous Dr. Bob Wood, “The Truth about UFOs”
Aug 5 - Topic TBD
Aug 12 - Board Meeting after the regular meeting
Aug 19 - Business meeting, no guests please
Aug 26 - Leif Wellhaven, District convention report
Sep 2 - Helen Cameron, Community Outreach
Luncheon meetings at the Bahia Corinthian Yacht Club have resumed, with indoor seating in one of the banquet rooms. Lunch will be served at 12:20 pm. You will be emailed an invitation two days before the meeting. Please notify Richard Swinney by this Wed 2PM if you are planning on attending. Note that you are invited to bring your spouse this week!