Brookhaven officials are trying to better serve those who served.
The town board has approved plans to create a Veterans Services Committee to help former military service members struggling with challenges such as unemployment, homelessness and medical issues as they return to civilian life.
Town Councilman Kevin LaValle said the volunteer committee will seek to improve communication between agencies that serve veterans and clear up scheduling conflicts that might prevent veterans from obtaining services. The committee, approved last month, includes veterans, a human resources manager and military services specialists from Stony Brook University and St. Joseph's College in Patchogue.
"The one thing we found is there are a lot of groups in the Town of Brookhaven that help, but there's no real coordination between them," said LaValle, who will be the committee's chairman. "Veterans are very proud people and it's very hard for them to ask for help. . . . There are lot of homeless veterans out there."
LaValle said the committee will assist all armed services veterans, including those who served in World War II, the Korean and Vietnam wars and recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as those who did not see combat or served in peacetime.
Committee members said many veterans find it hard to reintegrate themselves into civilian life after serving in combat zones. Besides the challenge of finding work and homes, some struggle with health conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder.
George Romero, a committee member from Middle Island, said he hopes the group will help to dispel the perception held by some employers that veterans lack job skills.
"It's great that they served, but when some employers see that they don't have business experience, it kind of hits them as a deterrent," said Romero, 41, a human resources specialist at Amneal Pharmaceuticals in Brookhaven hamlet. He said his company tries to recruit veterans at job fairs.
"They have great technical skills," Romero said. "One of my favorite things is they know how to take orders."
Patrick Donohue, 34, a committee member who lives in Islip, said he "had an inability to communicate with others" and "pushed people away" when he returned home after two years with the Army's 101st Airborne Division in Kandahar province in Afghanistan.
"I got home and I was a disaster," Donohue said.
Now he helps veterans through Project 9 Line, the Amityville arts group he founded that provides workshops on guitar, standup comedy, theater, film and painting. The group is named for the military code phrase indicating a service member needs help, he said.
"We're trying to make entrepreneurs out of them by doing what they love, which is art," Donohue, a former stockbroker, said. "Some of them are becoming professional comics as we speak."
Help for Veterans
The law creating the Brookhaven Town Veterans Services Committee is to work to "guarantee that the veterans in our communities are receiving all the services that they require and deserve."
Chairman Kevin LaValle,Brookhaven Town councilman
Patrick Donohue,president, Project 9 Line of Amityville
Shannon M. O'Neill,assistant dean, Office of Military and Veteran Services, St. Joseph's College, Patchogue
John Rago,Suffolk County United Veterans
Ismael Rodriguez,director, University Veterans Affairs, Stony Brook University
George Romero,senior representative, human resources, Amneal Pharmaceuticals, Brookhaven
Guillermo Sandoval,Suffolk County United Veterans