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Veterans Support Group Forming in Champaign County

The annual ceremony in Urbana recognizing the efforts of those who enlist in the U.S. armed forces was also a call to help local veterans in need.

About 40 people attended Veterans Day ceremonies at the Champaign County Courthouse Memorial on Thursday. Mark Friedman, the Superintendent of the Veterans Assistance Commission of Champaign County, spoke at the event.

Friedman's organization exists in about half of Illinois' counties. Groups like the VFW and American Legion has requested their county governments to form such a group, in which tax dollars help indigent veterans with areas like utility bills and assistance paying their rent or mortgage. Friedman said his organization has only been in the talking phase for the last 10 years, but its mission is starting to take shape.

"The VAC will be liasoning with groups like the (Champaign County) Regional Planning Commission for low-income energy assistance and programs like that," Friedman said. "We're basically going to be a clearinghouse to help route people who don't know where else to go. We're still looking at what we're going to describe as to what our complete mission is going to be."

Illinois' Military Assistance Act, passed in 1992, allows veterans organizations to form such groups. In other counties, the assistance groups also provide transportation for some veterans.

Meanwhile, veterans' groups say there is a new appreciation for what men and women in uniform do when serving in the armed services. Lieutenant Clifford White of Lincoln's Challenge Academy said only veterans know what it is like to stand guard all night while others sleep, and believes he is instilling those same values into the young cadets in Rantoul.

"It's not just a one-day event, it's an every day event," White said. "Our country is having turmoil everywhere, and they need to understand that if it wasn't for the men and women, both young and old, if it wasn't for that we wouldn't have the freedom to be able to do what we need to do and what we can do in our country."

White said since the Gulf War, Americans have learned to appreciate the role of the military.

(Photo by Jeff Bossert/WILL)

Categories: Government, History, Politics