Randolph County Veteran Services hires two new veteran officers
Since the installment of the new department director in 2018, the vision of Veteran Services for Randolph County began to take a new direction. Under the guidance of the County Commissioners and the administration, the Veteran Services hired two new officers to start on June 16 to address the community’s needs.
Some of those needs include 24-hour open communication with their consumers, quick response to the needs of veterans and their dependents, and future initiatives for homeless outreach through community collaborations.
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According to Director Chad Gurley, the department aimed to include new staff members who are veterans themselves. Gurley believes the new members have been proactive in their response to the community by promoting the services they offer. As a result, the office is seeing a 15 percent increase in new clientele.
Listening to the responses of the veteran community, Gurley said the office searched for individuals who looked, sounded, and breathed like them.
Kenneth Harvel, 40, was born in High Point and joined the Army immediately after graduating from Southwestern Randolph High School in 2000. He served for over 20 years in the continental U.S. Army with two tours in Afghanistan and three tours in Iraq.
Harvel’s job with veteran services is to help veterans of Randolph County apply for benefits, understand what resources are available, and how to navigate veteran assistance systems.
Lisa Wright, 33, joined the U.S. Air Force straight out of high school. She served in active duty for over seven years, with one deployment to Afghanistan in 2011. Later, she transferred into the Air Force Reserve after active duty and served in the Reserve for more than six years.
After serving 14 years, she had the need to stay involved and applied to be a veteran services officer.
Gurley thinks Harvel has the “soldiers taking care of soldiers” mentality and has proven his commitment to the mission of “serving with heart” in the department. Harvel has also garnered the respect of veterans who have met him.
The director is also pleased to have Wright, who has a high level of compassion and attention to detail. She is also trained in military sexual trauma response and moral recognition therapy, something Gurley believes is needed in the department.
Here is how the new staff’s military experience brought them to the department.
Q: Did you have any influences as a child to join the military?
Harvel: As a child, I looked up to my father. It was between him and the Southwestern Randolph High School JROTC program that drove my desire to serve my country. My transition from the military was pretty easy. I have a great marriage and a very supportive and understanding family.
Wright: During high school, I was a part of the color guard for two years. I was also a part of the volleyball team for two years. I realized that there was something for me within the military after joining the color guard.
Q: What assistance was available after you completed your service?
Harvel: There are programs that each service member goes through at their last duty station to help. Some individuals will get more out of them than the others, but it is designed to ease them back into the “civilian world.”
Q: Did you experience any hardships when coming home from the military?
Wright: I was fortunate that I did not experience any true hardships when I came home from the military, but I know that many do. However, I started a Guilford Technical Community College and obtained my Associates in Business Administration while working full-time. I am now working on my Bachelors in Business Administration with a concentration in human resources.
Q: What are some usual questions or concerns that veterans have?
Harvel: We are all veterans or married to a service member, so we know what kind of journey the people that walk through our doors have taken. So far, most of the concerns that I have seen with the veterans who come into the office deal with medical issues and making sure they are cared for.
Q: Why did you want to be a part of the veteran’s offices?
Harvel: I did not know that this county had a veterans service office until I googled it. These guys made it very painless getting my veteran’s assistance benefits, and I wanted to pay it forward.
Wright: I wanted to be a part of a team that made a difference within the community, and as a veteran, I thought the office would be a great place where I could do that.
As these two continue their positions as staff members, the office also promoted a staff member to lead veteran servicer officer.
On July 15, Elizabeth Wood will start her promotion with supervisory authority. Wood has been in the department for two years. As the wife of a career army soldier, she has exhibited outstanding leadership qualities. Wood will serve as the second in command to the department director.
Aside from the new staff addition, the department plans to implement more changes within the office. Here are some of the new developments:
- A public computer for troubleshooting automated problems with veteran e-benefits, VA.gov, direct deposit, and virtual appellate hearings. Other developments in the office include:
- The team will also host local town hall meetings on veteran affairs updates and case law beginning in August 2021.
- The office will begin a human services work-study program to partner with Randolph Community College to give local student leaders a chance at “serving with heart.” The date will come at a later time.
Veteran services started in 1985 and have evolved over the last 25 years. As department director, Gurley has built a team of people dedicated to assisting veterans and hopes to relay the message to the community.
Petruce Jean-Charles is a Government Watchdog Reporter. They are interested in what’s going on in the community and are open to tips on people, businesses and issues. Contact Petruce at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow @PetruceKetsia on Twitter.