9/11 remembered: Expo to connect veterans, service groups

Michael Hutchins
Herald Democrat
The Military Veterans Peer Network of Texoma will post a services expo and at connecting former service members with benefits and service organizations.

For some veterans, navigating the intricacies of getting access to services and benefits can be a daunting task. However, advocates with the Military Veteran Peer Network hope to help guide local former and current service members through this process over the weekend during the Veterans & Family Resource Expo.

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More than 30 organizations will gather at Sherman VFW post 2772 on Saturday starting at 10:30 a.m. to provide a one-stop shop for the various benefits and services that are offered to area veterans.

This year's event will focus on first responders, with a commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the attacks of September 11, 2001.

“It is important that we honor the bravery that they exhibit everyday, as they selflessly put their lives on the line for our community,” organizer Cindy Unerfusser said.

Organizers for the expo said the many services aimed at veterans exist, but sometimes it can be difficult for veterans to navigate through the process of getting access. Likewise, it can be difficult to get a full scope of the level of services that are available, which include both federal and local aid.

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As an example, there are programs to assist veterans in buying or selling a home. Other programs extend not only to the veteran but to their families, organizers said.

"This expo is oriented toward veterans and resources for them within our community," Unerfusser said. "It is unlike any other expo you would go to and has organizations that veterans would be interested in or the children of veterans might be interested in being a part of, as an example."

The Military Veteran Peer Network  formed in 2016 with the goal of bringing together the resources. The organization hosted the expo in previous years, but cancelled last year's event due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Unerfusser said about 35-40 organizations are expected to participate in this year's event. These organizations can offer services ranging from assisting with disability claims to low- to no-cost insurance for veterans. Others will provide information on end if life care and other services.

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This year's expo falls on the anniversary of the attacks on Sept.11, 2001 in New York, the Pentagon and the crash of another plane in Pennsylvania. While the attacks have meaning to many Americans, the attacks are remembered by many veterans for the service members who died that day, and in the wars that followed it.

"When people think of 9/11, they think of the Twin Towers," Unerfusser said. "9/11 to a lot of veterans also includes the Pentagon and the veterans we lost there."

"We like to remember that we lost our brothers and sisters in 9/11 and the wars after that," she continued.

Unerfusser said the event can help veterans of all ages, including those who are just transitioning out of their military careers and back into civilian life.

"It is a good event for transitional veterans who are leaving the military and coming to the area because they will learn information that they need when they are transitioning," she said.

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