GREENFIELD — Noticing an Army logo decorating the man’s hat, Bill Moylan stretched out his hand and thanked the visitor for his service to the country.
They shared a few quips — as a U.S. Navy veteran, Moylan never passes up an opportunity to tease a few of his fellow former servicemen and women — before Moylan launched into his spiel.
But no matter who approached Moylan’s table, sitting in the shadow of a mobile Department of Veterans Affairs center, each heard the same message about services available to those who served.
Hundreds of area veterans met with representatives from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs over the weekend at the mobile vet center, which booked a space at the Riley Festival for the first time in the event’s history.
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More than 80 mobile vet centers, housed inside RVs decorated with the emblems from each branch of the military, drive the country serving communities that do not meet the requirements for a “brick and mortar” VA center, according the department’s website.
The mobile centers provide a confidential meeting space where department representatives can connect veterans with benefit administrators, referrals to medical centers and an array of other services.
Primarily, the mobile center serves as an outreach effort to connect veterans with counseling offered by the VA, including post-traumatic stress disorder therapy, bereavement counseling and marriage and family counseling, said Bob Workman, the director of the county’s Veterans Services Office.
Congress established Vet Centers in 1979 to help Vietnam-era combat veterans readjust to civilian life after returning from overseas, Workman said. Now the centers and their mobile counterparts are open to all vets in need of assistance.
Workman arranged for the mobile service center to be available this year to the hundreds of former fighters who walk among the crowds at the four-day festival. He hoped that, in addition to connecting vets with much-needed services, the mobile center would serve as a reminder to local vets to utilize the service office located inside the Memorial Building in downtown Greenfield.
For about eight hours Saturday, VA officials like Moylan handed out information and answered questions. With the nearest VA center an hour round trip from Greenfield, the local veterans said they were pleased to see the mobile center paid a visit to Hancock County.
Terry Kee of McCordsville spent more than 20 years in the U.S. Army. His retirement benefits kick in next year when he turns 60, and he visited the mobile vet center Saturday to learn more about whom to contact to ensure the check shows up in his mailbox each month.
Kee had never used a VA center before; having served most of his time in uniform during the Cold War, he said he was lucky to escape the trauma many of his fellow soldiers have experienced.
“My need is pretty minimal,” Kee said. “But with these coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan after three or four tours, I know how important it is for them to get help.”