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Veterans getting help at Farmers Market

Dylan Riley, Appeal Staff Writer

Besides the usual fare, one stand at the Farmers Market at Mills Park on Wednesday offered something else.

Located at the heart of the event, a stand manned by veterans offered information on everything from job opportunities, to getting prescriptions refilled, to federal and state benefits for veterans.

Pascal Carpiaux, 45, of the American Legion, said the stand provides a link between the government and veterans to help filter through bureaucratic confusion and hopefully gets them the financial or medical aid they need.

“The information doesn’t always get to the people who need it and the information always changes,” Carpiaux said. “They’re not always told the whole truth, because there is literally too much for them to know.”

As an intermediary between the two sides, it isn’t always easy for veteran advocates to be impartial.

According to Carpiaux, a letter-writing campaign to Congressman Jim Gibbons, R-Nev., was initiated on behalf of disenfranchised veterans “because he (Gibbons) can fund a helicopter outfit of Elvis impersonators in Las Vegas but can’t give veterans any money.”

Jim Billig, Senior Vice Commander of Disabled American Veterans Chapter 7, says the location at the Farmers Market is free of charge.

“We talked it over with Shirley Sponsler and it was agreed that they would let us have a place here, no charge,” Billig said. “This is the third year, and I’ve been project manager ever since. It’s a successful day if we help one veteran.”

Sponsler rings the triangle to open the Farmers Market, as “The Entertainer” starts playing in the background.

“They help everyone, not just the vets,” Sponsler said.

Among the Veterans Administration brochures are guides to improving health, including everything from hernias to high blood pressure to quitting smoking.

Billig said that there is also an initiative to help the homeless, many of whom are military veterans.

“There is a DAV van coming back from New Orleans, and we use those vans to transport veterans back and forth,” Billig said. “We have also acquired 12,000 blankets.”

According to literature provided at the Farmer’s Market info booth, “one of the DAV’s top priorities is to help America’s 250,000 homeless veterans break the cycle of poverty and isolation, and move from the streets to self-sufficiency.”

The chapter has an outreach effort in place for Native American vets in addition to helping the homeless.

Chaplain Bob Crowder, 80, said that the service is provided at various other locations as well.

“We’re at all three Smith’s, Raley’s, and we have one at Wal-Mart finally, and at Lowe’s and Scolari’s,” Crowder said.