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Discussion of local issues facing military vets begins

FLOYD COUNTY VETERANS

Discussion of local issues facing military vets begins

Round table forum identifies problems, looks for next steps

What problems are Floyd County’s veterans organizations facing today?

To start, there are some older ceremonial weapons that have a habit of misfiring, mid-ceremony. Younger members aren’t involved to take over leadership as older veterans retire. There has been past miscommunication between businesses and nonprofit organizations looking for support.

There’s also the question of whether veterans in town know where to look for information: About grants, services and opportunities available to vets young and old alike. Where can they even get started?

Veterans and other community members started Wednesday night, at a Charles City Public Library discussion table. Around 25 participants, representing at least nine area organizations, showed up for the round table forum hosted by the Charles City Chamber of Commerce and led by director Mark Wicks. The discussion lasted over two hours as participants tried to identify key concerns and talk through first steps to solutions.

“There’s concern of a perception of a dwindling veteran presence in the community and struggles to attract new veterans,” Wicks said, opening up discussions. “There’s concern over losing our military presence in parades and the public eye.”

The Chamber agreed to facilitate the discussion after several concerned veterans approached them, Wicks said.

“The ball’s in their court now –– hopefully the conversation continues,” he said. There was a lot to be concerned about, veterans agreed –– most notably, concern for the younger demographic missing from the table. That’s partly because vets organizations today aren’t communicating the same way younger vets communicate on social media, participants said.

“Social media is it. Where do they even go to learn about our organizations here in town?” one woman asked. “Does anybody have a website other than their national websites? Where is that social media at that they can find out when and where, what things they can participate in?”

Meeting times have also conflicted with work schedules as more people work nontraditional hours, she added, and veterans don’t know who to turn to for information after hours.

“Social media is a huge thing,” Maria Dicke of the Floyd County Commission of Veterans Affairs (VA) said. “Bring something that is appealing to those younger vets, maybe a night time thing where they meet…uniting the veterans is an important thing.”

Faulty, old ceremonial weapons were also a major concern for veterans, Terry Mork of the American Legion said, with weapons misfiring during ceremonies and lacking consistent service to keep them in working condition. Multiple organizations in Floyd County have been unable to contact state government officials to repair or replace the rifles, Mork said.

“We’re just trying to think of different ways so that the ceremonial units can take a little more pride in what they’re doing,” Mork said. “That’s what kind of led to this…we’ve realized that both the V.F.W. and the Legion, and probably everyone else, membership seems to be dwindling…if we open it up to everybody who’s the least bit interested in the veterans situation here, to see who’s got ideas to get young people interested, how we can get our organizations vibrant like in the past if we can.”

“You did the most important thing in the world, leadership-wise,” Wicks told the group. “You showed up tonight.”

By Kate Hayden [email protected]

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