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Ohio Veterans Newsletter, Summer 2021

Ohio Veterans Update

Summer 2021 Edition

ODVS and State of Ohio Display Support for ESGR

distinguished guests at ESGR event

With the return of outdoor and large-scale events, the Ohio Department of Veterans Services has been afforded the opportunity to highlight and strengthen connections to various organizations across the state that tend to the needs of veterans and military families.

On July 9, ODVS Director Deborah Ashenhurst and staff members had the honor of showing the department’s full backing for Employer Support for the Guard and Reserve (ESGR), joining forces outside City Hall and atop the National Veterans Memorial and Museum with Ohio Lt. Governor Jon Husted, Councilmember Mitchell Brown, NVMM President and CEO Michael Ferriter, veteran community leaders, and Maj. Gen. Steve Stivers, the former U.S. Congressman who now serves as President and CEO of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce.

Director Ashenhurst addresses the crowdThe midday program began with words of gratitude at City Hall followed by a march of support across the Scioto River to a ribbon-cutting, short ceremony, and reception at NVMM.

ODVS was among hundreds of Ohio businesses, government agencies and entities that offered an official Statement of Support to ESGR, which strives to help employers see the benefits of tapping into the talents of Guard members and Reservists and maintaining their rightful place in the workforce. As Ohio’s former Adjutant General, Director Ashenhurst long has been an advocate for ESGR and was elated to show her public support and walk alongside Lt. Governor Husted en route to the program at NVMM.

At the luncheon that followed, the Director and ODVS Workforce Manager Ryan Blackburn accepted ESGR’s prestigious Pro Patria Award on behalf of the department — recognition for efforts to ensure active duty military members, veterans, and their spouses are finding their rightful place in the civilian workforce.

The Pro Patria Award actually was announced last fall, a recognition for ODVS Workforce Team’s efforts to remain steadfast through a pandemic. The goal of the team is to educate Ohio’s military-friendly companies and businesses on the merits of seeking out veterans, connecting them to appropriate career opportunities, and incentivizing them to thrive in those roles.

Workforce Team Continues to Shine

Owens Community College graduate Justin BennettRecently, ODVS was able to showcase one of the many ways veterans are making successful ventures into the workforce by producing a video that outlines the story of Marine Corps veteran and Owens Community College graduate Justin Bennett, who participated in the Manufacturing Technical Apprenticeship Program in Hancock County. A young family man and aspiring manufacturer, Bennett already is using the skills he acquired in the military to make his mark at Simona PMC, a thermoplastics plant in Findlay, Ohio. The video debuted on July 25, which is National Hire a Veteran Day. 

Department estimates show that thousands of military members return to Ohio each year after separating from service. Ohio is a proven military-friendly state; however, there are occasional obstacles to overcome. The ODVS Workforce Team continues to offer free online training sessions that are accredited by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). On Aug. 6, the team enlightened on topics such as veteran demographics, military culture, and translating skills to potential work opportunities.

ODVS Employees Danny Eakins and Ryan Blackburn at the Memorial

Since its inception in October 2016, the Workforce Team had contacted more than 17,000 employers and conducted 301 training sessions to more than 4,000 attendees through Aug. 1.

The team’s impact has led to recent notoriety among in-state media. In fact, Blackburn and ODVS Policy Administrator Danny Eakins did a live interview from The Memorial Tournament with FOX 28 out of Columbus on June 3. Also, Blackburn served as a panelist and veteran hiring expert on Spectrum News’s “In Focus” program with host Mike Kallmeyer as well as WOSU Public Media's popular “All Sides with Ann Fisher” show. 

Spirits Lifted for Residents of Veterans Homes

While ODVS continues to monitor a crisis situation, provide safety for all inside the Ohio Veterans Homes and respond to every needed protocol throughout the pandemic, recent events have allowed for visitation at the two facilities and even new admissions during the summer.

For the majority of the calendar year, we have kept coronavirus out of OVH-Sandusky or OVH-Georgetown and, thanks to statewide efforts led by Gov. Mike DeWine and Lt. Gov. Husted, more than 95 percent of residents and nearly 60 percent of staff members have been vaccinated. That enabled administrators to begin admitting veterans that were on the waiting list at each Home and opportunities for some to visit with our residents – with certain precautions in place.

Volunteers at Pearl's Harbor eventOn June 23, a total of 31 residents from our Veterans Home in Georgetown – plus several caregivers and staff members – headed to the Lee family compound on the southern edge of Ohio for a special day of fun in the sun. The campground, named Pearl’s Harbor, was an idyllic setting as the veterans enjoyed a cookout lunch, boat rides along the Ohio River, fishing, relaxation, music, games and much more.

The offer by the Lees, a military family from the area, provided a very memorable day that was captured in a recent “On The Road” video. Dozens of volunteers lent a hand, as did the Ohio State Highway Patrol and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. For many of the veterans, the afternoon represented their first field trip off campus in more than a year.

Similarly, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction reprised its role in presenting separate Christmas July celebrations at each Home.

Christmas in July at OVH GeorgetownOn July 7, State Representative Adam Bird joined the festivities at OVH-Georgetown, spending time with Director Ashenhurst, administrators, ODRC personnel and our residents. He and the Director offered words of gratitude to the residents during the ceremony at the outdoor pavilion, which was followed by a fun morning bingo session.

On July 22, the Noel season arrived to OVH-Sandusky on a beautiful summer morning. Once again, Peer Support Group members dressed in holiday attire, ODRC provided an honor guard for the ceremony, and Director Ashenhurst thanked the veterans for their service and patience through the COVID-19 pandemic.

State Representative D.J. Swearingen also delivered remarks during a ceremony emceed by ODRC Managing Director of Operations Ed Voorhies, followed by a full hour of bingo. At the end of the program, Director Ashenhurst presented a department challenge coin to ODRC Correction Officer of the Year Chris Hammond and Mr. Voorhies, who is retiring later this year.

ODVS Partners With ODMHAS to Create Crucial New Role

With the help of a grant, the Ohio Department of Mental Health & Addiction Services (ODMHAS) is partnering with ODVS to create a new role to support veterans, titled Certified Peer Recovery Supporter (PRS).

Now Hiring: PRS position

This is a certified position that has certain requirements. Those who apply should be properly trained or already certified. See more on PRS prerequisites as administered by ODMHAS.

ODVS’s mission is to provide opportunities and resources for our veteran community through advocacy, collaboration, and partnerships. This new position, which will be based out of our Ohio Veterans Home in Sandusky, enables the department to offer guidance and help to former service members who are recovering from drug or alcohol addiction, with special emphasis on opioid abuse recovery.

This new position will be full-time with State of Ohio benefits.

The PRS will...

  1. support veterans with a history of opioid or other addictions
  2. mentor veterans through the recovery process — either one-on-one or in a group setting — to encourage long-term sustainability of sobriety
  3. assist veterans in daily management, social and emotional support, linkages to clinical care and/or community resources by using a variety of techniques

An application and additional information about this opportunity may be obtained from careers.ohio.gov. If you have a LinkedIn account, you can also view the job posting on our ODVS page.

For more on this vital new position, please contact Brett McBride-Lipnis at brett.mcbridelipnis@dvs.ohio.gov.

Findlay Air Force Day Helps Kick Off Summer

May is always a key month in the patriotic state of Ohio. After all, May is National Military Appreciation Month and it often features a variety of events across the state that pay homage to the amazing men and women who thrived both in service to the country and in impacting numerous Ohio communities afterward.

Director Ashenhurst takes a ride on a tank

While the number of those traditional programs wasn’t up to standard this year, some sectors of the state still held noteworthy military-related events in May. Our department joined in and hosted small ceremonies at each of our Veterans Homes on Memorial Day. For the second straight year, we also used our social media platforms to unveil a “Memorial Month” project, which each day highlighted a different monument, memorial, statue, cemetery, or museum in Ohio that honors our fallen service members. 

But perhaps most notable of military-related events that led into summer was the return of the annual Findlay MV Show, which was held at the Hancock County Fairgrounds on May 14-16. The true highlight came on May 15 – Armed Forces Day – as Director Ashenhurst spoke to the group of veterans at the GI Breakfast program at The Old Millstream Centre on the fairgrounds, helped honor former service members and local award winners, and also offered a few words to the fairgoers a little later that morning at the start of the 34th Annual Findlay MV Show military parade.

Pilots at Findlay Armed Forces DayThe popular, three-day event also featured flame-thrower demonstrations, re-enactors from every era, the presence of 4-H clubs, military memorabilia, and flights on American Huey 369 military helicopters.

Armed Forces Day has been a special celebration in Hancock County since the 1980s and the event seems to grow in stature each year. For a peek at this year’s event, check out our “On The Road” video.

summer military puzzle