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Ohio Veterans Newsletter, Fall 2021

Ohio Veterans Update

Fall 2021 Edition

Ohio Veterans HOF Adds 20 More Post-Military Standouts

Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame Class of 2021 Members

One of the most rewarding aspects of our department is when we have a hand in helping to honor former military members, including veterans who have gone above and beyond to make a positive impact in their communities after their time in the armed forces. In fact, that is precisely the intent of the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame – to pay tribute to the men and women of service who continue to achieve and better the lives of others.

On Sept. 23, ODVS  unveiled the 20-member class of the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame, a group that represents 13 different Ohio counties and five branches of the military, and was selected from 142 nominations.

Gov. DeWine Speaking at Hall of Fame InductionDuring a semi-private ceremony at the National Veterans Memorial and Museum, Governor Mike DeWine joined ODVS Director Deborah Ashenhurst and other dignitaries in honoring 12 of the newest members of the Hall of Fame. Among those recognized was posthumous inductee Joe Nishimoto, who became the first Medal of Honor recipient to enter the Hall since 2017.

Two days later, another five class members – including renowned Buffalo Soldier Charles Young – were honored at American Legion Post 598 in Kettering.

On Oct. 26, a third and final regional ceremony was held at the historic Hough Auditorium at Camp Perry in Port Clinton as northern Ohioans Bill Clark, Thomas Humphries and Greg White were recognized for their contributions following military service.

ODVS Dir. Ashenhurst Honors Hall of Fame Inductee

Highlights of the three events included the reading of the official bios and remarks from Governor DeWine, Director Ashenhurst, Secretary of the State Frank LaRose, and Ohio Adjutant General Major General John C. Harris Jr., which were compiled in an hourlong virtual Induction Ceremony video that debuted on OhioVets.gov, ODVS’s official social media pages and OhioChannel.org on Nov. 11, Veterans Day. Photos from the events have also been compiled in a digital photo album on ODVS's Flickr website. ODVS also recently announced a schedule of individual video vignettes that will be shown on YouTube.com and on our Facebook page every Tuesday and Thursday through the end of January.

ODVS Dir. Ashenhurst Speaking at Hall of Fame Induction

The 2021 class includes five posthumous inductees and three womenWanda Dillard, Linda Murnane and Jo Wildman – bringing the all-time total of women to be inducted to 74.

The Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame was founded in 1992 and the list of inductees features six U.S. presidents, more than 300 Medal of Honor recipients and some of Ohio’s most legendary figures including Neil Armstrong, John Glenn, Eddie Rickenbacker, Ulysses S. Grant, Sharon Lane, Bob Evans, Paul Newman and Woody Hayes.

If you know a veteran who may be worthy of induction into the Veterans Hall of Fame, you can go to nomination page on OhioVets.gov to nominate them. Deadline for nominations for the 2022 class is June 1.

Governor, First Lady Visit OVH-Sandusky on Veterans Day

If you guessed that the days leading up to and including Veterans Day are busy and event-filled for ODVS, you would be correct. 

Each year, outstanding organizations from all across the state honor those who served in a variety of ways and with a multitude of events in November and ODVS staff members are privileged to participate in some of them. For example, on Nov. 5, Director Ashenhurst joined other dignitaries at the reviewing station outside city hall in downtown Columbus for the 2021 Central Ohio Veterans Day Parade, which is presented by MilVets.

ODVS Dir. Ashenhurst Speaks at Lockbourne

Gov. DeWine and ODVS Dir. Ashenhurst Greet VetsOn Nov. 10, the Director served as guest speaker as the Village of Lockbourne dedicated and cut the ribbon on a new Veterans Park in the shadow of Rickenbacker Air National Guard Base.

The following day, several ODVS staffers played a role in key events across Ohio as Chief Legal Counsel Nate Mealy addressed attendees of the Crawford County Veterans Hall of Fame Ceremony at Bucyrus High School, Financial Program Manager Christina Helm represented our department at the first African-American Senior Veterans Day Celebration at New Prospect Baptist Church in Cincinnati and Policy Administrator Danny Eakins served as keynote speaker of the Gallipolis Veterans Day program in Gallia County.

Distinguished Guests Greet OVH Residents

Gov. DeWine and First Lady Visit OVH Cemetery

Meanwhile, Governor DeWine and First Lady Fran DeWine provided one of the highlights of the whole year by attending a Veterans Day ceremony at the Ohio Veterans Home in Sandusky and reflecting on the magnitude of the day.

Director Ashenhurst and General Harris also greeted veterans there and participated in the program, which was emceed by OVH Superintendent Ross Matlack.

The presence of the DeWines was powerful as they took time to interact with the residents – all of them wartime veterans – and also walked the grounds of the OVH cemetery where more than 4,600 former occupants of the 133-year-old facility are laid to rest. 

Veteran Hiring Takes Center Stage

While the COVID-19 pandemic caused a spike in unemployment rates, veteran employment remained ahead of the curve throughout 2021, perhaps a result of the state’s many efforts to ensure that military-friendly businesses are following through on their pledge to employ and right-hire both veterans and military spouses.

Working hand in hand with key partners such as JobsOhio, the Governor’s Office of Workforce Transformation, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services and OhioMeansVeteransJobs.com, ODVS’s Veterans Workforce Team has continued to put veteran hiring at the forefront, especially this past autumn.

Workforce Mgr Ryan Blackburn Speaking at MSEEZOn Oct. 12, for example, Director Ashenhurst joined Ohio Lt. Governor Jon Husted, Secretary of State LaRose and other dignitaries and key members of the veteran community at the National Veterans Memorial and Museum to celebrate Ohio’s designation as a Military Spouse Economic Empowerment Zone (MSEEZ) by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Hiring Our Heroes program. MSEEZ was established to connect military spouses with companies committed to hiring them and encourages collaborative efforts among local business, civic and military communities that establish employment networks in municipalities around the country. Ohio became only the seventh state to receive such a statewide designation.

Workforce Team at San Antonio

Ryan Blackburn, Director of Workforce Development for ODVS, was instrumental in this effort and has helped our department expand its footprint when it comes to veteran hiring in Ohio. He was a featured speaker at the annual Ohio Manufacturers’ Workforce Summit, a virtual event held Oct. 27-28. He also joined forces with JobsOhio representatives and Senior Advisor for Aerospace, Defense Joseph Zeis, and other key partners at the Association of Defense Communities Installation Innovation Forum in San Antonio.

JobsOhio created a new Federal and Military Industry Sector early last year, which is yet another key recognition of the fact that active-duty military and veterans play a key role in the economic success of our state.  More than 55 percent of all federal contracts are concentrated in two areas – aerospace product and parts manufacturing (35 percent) and scientific research and development services (20 percent).

Distinguished Guests at Panel

On Nov. 10, Director Ashenhurst joined Lt. Governor Husted and other panelists to discuss Ohio Laborers Apprenticeship opportunities in construction to help promote #NationalApprenticeshipWeek and #HireAVet Month. The Laborers' District Council of Ohio served as host for the taping, held in Westerville.

The following week, Blackburn gave an overview of our department and delved into specific efforts of the Workforce Team at the 2021 Veterans Summit, held at Villa Milano restaurant in Columbus. The Director served as keynote for that event.

Recently, Blackburn also discussed how ODVS is making strides to find better landing spots for veterans in the workplace on the Looking Forward Our Way podcast.

Earlier this year, our department helped implement a new veterans section of FindYourOhio.com, which is a great online resource. And like JobsOhio, ODVS shares the mission of helping Ohio companies that are expanding or relocating to find new talent by tapping into the unique skillsets of veterans and military spouses.

Ohio is home to nearly 750,000 veterans, which ranks sixth nationally among all 50 states in terms of veteran population. About 10,000 men and women separate from service and start their civilian careers in Ohio each year.

State Officials Speak Directly to Afghanistan Veterans

With the recent conclusion of the American conflict in Afghanistan, the veteran community was left to reconcile the service of the men and women who took part in that 20-year war. Feelings of hurt, frustration and anger bubbled up even more when 13 U.S. service members were killed during an ISIS-K attack at the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul on Aug. 26 in an attempt to evacuate citizens from the war-torn country.

ODVS Dir. Ashenhurst Speaking

News soon surfaced that one of those who perished in that suicide bombing was Navy Fleet Marine Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Maxton “Max” W. Soviak of Berlin Heights, Ohio. He was just 22 years old.

On Aug. 30, several prominent State of Ohio officials, including Governor DeWine, held a press conference to address the issues facing Afghanistan veterans and to facilitate a heartfelt discussion about the value of service, the array of mental health resources available and the recognition of varying reactions to this development.

At that public event, held in front of the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame display area in the Riffe Center, Director Ashenhurst and Assistant Director Sean McCarthy joined the Governor, Maj. Gen. Harris, Ohio Department of Mental Health & Addiction Services Director Lori Criss, Ohio Secretary of State LaRose, Ohio State Senator Frank Hoagland and Ohio State Representative Haraz N. Ghanbari to remind Ohio’s active duty military, Reservists, Guard members, military retirees, their families and Gold Star Families that Ohioans are here to support them.

Haraz Ghanbari SpeakingOn Oct. 12, for example, Director Ashenhurst joined Ohio Lt. Governor Jon Husted, Secretary of State LaRose and other dignitaries and key members of the veteran community at the National Veterans Memorial and Museum to celebrate Ohio’s designation as a Military Spouse Economic Empowerment Zone (MSEEZ) by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Hiring Our Heroes program. MSEEZ was established to connect military spouses with companies committed to hiring them and encourages collaborative efforts among local business, civic and military communities that establish employment networks in municipalities around the country. Ohio became only the seventh state to receive such a statewide designation.

“Sometimes, the mental and emotional burden becomes too heavy and we have to take a knee,” MG Harris said, “and there is no shame in that, particularly in light of the current events that we see unfolding.”

The group also discussed a refreshed OHIOcares website focused on providing mental health resources to veterans and currently serving military members. The site includes a list of services available through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Vet Centers and reminders that free, confidential emotional support can be found at the Ohio CareLine at (800) 720-9616.

Also, ODVS unveiled a new initiative between our department and ODMHAS aimed at reaching out to local veteran-serving organizations to learn about their programs and offer support and assistance. New information specifically directed at Afghanistan veterans can be found at OhioVets.gov.

Finally, the state is making initial investment of grants, $25,000 each, to eight veteran-serving organizations to enhance or expand the services they offer.

The war, the longest conflict in American history, officially was ended on Aug. 31, one day after the press conference.

A Very Special Day in Portsmouth

In our efforts to ensure that Ohio is among the best states in the country at providing benefits and resources to veterans and military families, ODVS endeavors to –

  • listen to the needs and issues of former service members
  • help them harness their unique talents and entrepreneurial spirit, and
  • value collaboration and partnerships with other entities and state agencies who share our vision.

Conference Room Meeting

All of those factors came to light on Nov. 16 in what turned out to be a beautiful and memorable day in Portsmouth. In an area of southern Ohio that has been deeply affected by opioid abuse in recent years, a local veteran is making a huge difference, as Director Ashenhurst witnessed. 

The Director joined forces with Ohio Department of Mental Health & Addiction Services Director Criss and Trauma-Informed Care Coordinator Dr. Marjorie Kukor to learn more about how the community has worked to overcome several challenges, including the unique efforts of veteran-owned businesses Portsmouth Spartan Kettlebell Club (PSKC) and Doc Spartan. Owner and Founder Dale King, who was deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan while in the U.S. Army, opened PSKC in 2010 to use CrossFit training, team-building concepts, and community partnerships to help local residents overcome addiction issues, lack of confidence, and in some cases, trauma.

CrossFitKing also runs Doc Spartan, which provides all-natural ointments and recently was featured on the television program “Shark Tank.” He has developed an alignment with The Counseling Center to encourage physical fitness and overall health for those who are overcoming hardship or addiction.

The second stop of the day was a roundtable discussion at the local Alcohol, Drug, Addiction, Mental Health Services (ADMHAS) Board, which serves Scioto, Lawrence and Adams counties. While there, Executive Director Susan Schultz welcomed comments from local health partners as well as directors Criss and Ashenhurst to find ways to better address mental health and addiction issues in the area.

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