New help for NE Iowa veterans

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The Mobile Vet Center makes stops in Mount Pleasant on Tuesdays and West Union on Thursdays. (Photo courtesy of Troy Lewis)

By Pat McTaggart

Freelance Journalist

Combat veterans or those who suffered sexual trauma while serving in the military now have a new resource to help them in northeast Iowa.  

A Mobile Vet Center (MVC) is now visiting West Union every Thursday from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.  It is located next to Hardee’s near the intersection of Highways 150 and 18 and is set up to serve eligible veterans throughout northeast Iowa.

There are more than 200 Vet Centers located throughout the United States. The first one was established in Washington State by a group of Viet Nam veterans in 1979. Iowa has three Vet Centers, located in Cedar Rapids, Des Moines and Sioux City. They serve veterans and their families, providing counseling, professional readjustment, bereavement counseling, marital and family counseling and sexual trauma/harassment counseling, as well as other services.

The MVC is the only one in the state, and there are only 49 in the entire country. It is based out of Cedar Rapids, and stops in Mount Pleasant on Tuesdays in addition to its Thursday stop in West Union.  Scott Wallingford and Troy Lewis, both combat veterans, work in the MVC.  They each are retired military and each served for 23 years.

Wallingford is the team’s readjustment counselor. He offers counseling for depression, anger, stress and bereavement and has been on the job for about seven months. Lewis is a readjustment counseling tech, veteran’s outreach specialist and the MVC’s driver with four years of experience.

“There is definitely a need for this in rural areas,” Lewis said.  “The MVC helps us reach out to vets who are located in rural areas and do not have access to the physical centers. It’s my job to see if a veteran is eligible for our services. Our guidelines are that you have to be a combat veteran or someone who has suffered sexual trauma while in the military.  They do not have to be enrolled in the VA to see us, and there is no charge of any kind.  If they are a combat veteran, they have already paid the price. However, any vet is welcome to visit us. We can send them in the right direction for them to get help.”

“Our records are strictly confidential and cannot be seen by anyone, not even the Veterans Administration. We are not part of the VA medical services.  All we do is offer counseling and therapy. We don’t offer medications. Our main goal is to do whatever we can to help our veterans.”

The West Union MVC is already seeing clients. “It’s kind of like the Field of Dreams,” Lewis said. “If you build it, they will come. A vet can stop in and see us to make an appointment or can call 319-378-0016 and tell us what time they would like to see us in West Union. All they need is a copy of their DD-214 to get started.”

Both men say that this is the job they want.  “It’s very fulfilling,” Wallingford said.  Lewis echoed his sentiments.  “I love my job,” he said. “I can’t think of a better one. Stop in and see us.”

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