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2016 Arizona American Indian Veterans Town Hall Meeting

Community members of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community who are veterans or family members of veterans also attended the Town Hall Meeting.

About 60 veterans and supporters of veterans came together in Fort McDowell on October 13 for a town hall meeting.

The 2016 Arizona American Indian Veterans Town Hall and Benefits Presentation provided American Indian veterans a platform to share powerful and important experiences, to air questions and concerns, and to encourage discussion.

The event was held at Fort McDowell’s We-Ko-Pa Resort. Fort McDowell President Bernadine Burnette welcomed everyone to the event and emphasized the event’s importance to tribal veterans and their families.

Members from surrounding tribal communities, veterans and family members of veterans, tribal leaders, staff and caregivers attended the town hall.

Panelists included Thomas Winkel of the Arizona Coalition for Military Families; Col. Wanda Wright, director of the Arizona Department of Veterans’ Services; Diana “Dede” Devine, president of Native American Connections in Phoenix; and Terry Araman, program director of Madison Street Veterans Association.

Speakers discussed how Arizona provides services to American Indian veterans and the variety of programs that are available for veterans and their families.

A panel discussion took place with (l-r) Thomas Winkle of Arizona Coalition for Military Families, Dede Yazzie-Devine with Native American Connections, Col. Wanda Wright with Arizona Department of Veteran’ Services and Terry Araman with Madison Street Veterans Association.
The panel discussion included a question-and-answer period, which allowed listeners to ask questions.

On improving the quality of life, staff from Native American Connections spoke about the veterans’ programs that they offer to help veterans who are homeless, are incarcerated, have substance-abuse problems and/or are single parents.

Other topics discussed included grants, funds and other help for vets and how to apply for these programs. Services for veterans were discussed for those who live in rural parts of Indian Country, where the nearest town could be 30 miles away, which requires better ways to get vets to their doctor appointments.

The Town Hall meeting started with the Posting of the Colors along with the Pledge of Allegiance.
Concerned family members mentioned younger veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and who could be suicidal; they asked for other types of help and suggested that agencies and programs accept applications by phone, rather than handing people pamphlets to read. Others suggested ways to look for mental help through social media and wanted to learn how to apply for jobs in the city or nearby towns.

The Arizona Governor’s Office on Tribal Relations, the Arizona Department of Veterans’ Services, the Arizona Developmental Disabilities Planning Council and the Arizona Coalition for Military Families organized the town hall.