Veterans connect to free services at IBEW event

Michael Caprio, Special to the Reporter
Sep. 1, 2011

Last Friday, just under 800 veterans gathered in the parking lot of the local IBEW 103 on Freeport Street to receive free services offered by the Volunteers of America and Department of Veterans Services.

Services provided include medical services, dental services, legal services, and services for women’s veterans. Clothing provided by the Veterans Administration as well as sleeping bags were also available to the veterans.

The event was tailored to serve homeless and at-risk veterans – a demographic that has been a high priority of local public figures and several nonprofits.

Cheryl Lussier Poppe, deputy secretary of programs, services, and personnel for the Department of Veterans’ Services, spoke of the importance of offering financial services and peer services to in-need veterans.

“There are 393,000 veterans in Massachusetts,” Poppe said. “Especially with repeat deployments, some veterans are very affected,” she said.

Poppe helps oversee the SAVE program in Massachusetts, which employs veterans and volunteers to run suicide prevention and outreach programs for other vets.

The program operates 15 shelters and 16 outreach centers throughout the state.

Massachusetts has some of the best accommodations in the nation for veterans, event organizers said. Under Chapter 115 of the Massachusetts General Laws, veterans are eligible for mortgage relief and loan assistance from the state.

Massachusetts is the only state with such laws, Poppe said.

Walking through the crowd in his infantry fatigues was veteran C.W. Wormley and fellow serviceman Clifton Walker, pointing to the various army tent, figuring out which station to go to next.
“We don’t want to miss this,” Wormley said, pointing to a corner. His friend followed.

A half hour-long ceremony allowed local public figures to express their support for the veterans. Among the speakers was Setti Warren, mayor of Newton and U.S. Senate candidate.

“As a veteran of the Iraq war, I know how important it is for veterans of all wars to have the support and services they need,” he said.

Warren said the issue of homeless veterans was one of significant importance. “We should not have homeless vets in this country,” he said.

Coleman Nee, secretary of the Department of Veterans Services, said that the Commonwealth is fortunate to have such a robust support system for veterans.

“Everyone in this parking lot … has earned every benefit you have here today,” he said addressing the veterans.

Lieutenant Governor Tim Murray, who has championed the veterans causes during his four and half years in office, was also present.

Murray spoke of the importance of partnering with groups like the IBEW 103 and Volunteers for America to keep these services coming.

“We are committed to … partnering and getting the services that are needed.”

As Murray spoke veterans continued to mill around the parking lot as speakers Brendan Murphy, a veteran of the Iraq War and Dorchester resident, and Melida Arredondo of Roslindale, whose son Alexander was killed in Iraq in 2004, spoke in support of the veterans.

Michael Lawson, director of the Boston VA healthcare system, took the podium and looked out over the crowd.

“If we consistently do this,” he said, nodding to the volunteers, “we can make sure the land of the free continues to be the home of the bave.”