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Currituck’s new board aimed at improving veteran services

No veteran in Currituck County should have to fight with the Veteran’s Administration for services. That’s the idea behind a new initiative gearing up in the county.

Corolla resident E.T. Smith talked with county commissioners prior to their first meeting this month about creating a Veteran’s Assistance Advisory Board for veterans in Currituck County. Smith explained that every state and county are forming assistance boards that not only work with veterans and the VA, but also set up appointments and transportation to get to those appointments, and help to make sure veterans are getting all the services available from the VA.

In addition, the board will identify veteran-owned businesses and work with other county businesses to provide special deals or discounts for veteran customers.

Letting people know that veterans are appreciated in Currituck County, helps promote businesses already in the county and encourages others to locate here, something that holds a lot of promise given Currituck’s proximity to the military based in Virginia. The board can also work with the county’s economic development director, Larry Lombardi, who Smith noted is doing a darn good job for the county.

Smith, a Vietnam veteran with 20 years in law enforcement, said that a Veteran’s Advisory Board has been created in Dare County and has already done a lot for veterans and veteran-owned businesses in that county.

To get started in Currituck will take creation of the board and naming people to serve on it. Smith explained that the board will answer directly to the commissioners who will decide the number of members and who the appointees will be. He recommended that the majority be veterans, and that a commissioner or two be appointed (commissioner Paul Beaumont volunteered).

That board will be tasked with gathering the names and addresses of every veteran in Currituck County. The county already has a data base started and veterans can log onto the county’s website at www.currituckgovernment.com to register. That includes veterans who were in the reserves or National Guard, whether or not called to action. Veterans may also call Leeann Walton at the county manager’s office at 252-232-2075 to register.

Veterans will need to present their military discharge forms and will receive a card identifying them as a veteran that can then be used at participating businesses, Smith explained, adding that he would be willing to chair the new board as it gets started.

The cost to get things underway, about $1,500 annually, Smith estimated, plus any additional amount the commissioners may want to contribute for his mileage, as he plans to visit businesses, churches and other organizations throughout the county to spread the word about the program and to get businesses and veterans signed up. There will also have to be someone to serve as secretary to the advisory board, probably a county staff person.

Smith added that he is also working on a couple of ideas for a “big splash,” hopefully to take place within the next 24 months, to let everyone know about the program and to recognize local veterans.

Commissioners’ chairman Bobby Hanig commented that he can’t wait to get this new board in place, that too many of the 4,600 veterans in the county are not getting the services they’ve earned.

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