Statewide veteran organizations gather at one table to talk partnership

Outside the Gates: Alaska Warrior Partnership hosts collaborative meeting for veterans services
Statewide veteran organizations gather at one table to talk partnership
Published: Feb. 2, 2023 at 6:48 PM AKST
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WASILLA, Alaska (KTUU) - Whether it’s comradery, outdoor recreation, video gaming, yoga, health services or help navigating the Veterans Affairs benefits system — there are many organizations across the state of Alaska that offer support services for veterans. However, many leaders of these entities, such as Jessy Lakin with Alaska Warrior Partnership, say that oftentimes service members don’t even know they exist.

“Veteran support organizations are the lifeline for a veteran after they get out of their time in service,” Lakin said.

This is why Alaska Warrior Partnership recently hosted a partnership meeting, inviting veteran-oriented groups from across the state to meet at the same table to discuss how they can support each other to better serve those who have served in the military.

“I want to make sure the organizations know that we’re all in this — one team, one fight,” Lakin stated. “We all have the same end goal (which) is stopping veteran suicide and so we all need to work together.”

The two-hour meeting was held at Band of Brothers in Wasilla, where about 20 representatives from varying organizations went round-robin around the room introducing themselves and what support services their organization offers. The informal gathering gave those representatives a chance to understand how they might be able to utilize each service in alliance with their own mission.

MJ Motta, the Community Outreach Director with the Veterans Association of Real Estate Professionals, said she was even unaware of some of the veteran service organizations she met during the partnership meeting.

“It’s so important for us to all be out in the community and engaging with those service members and veterans that have a need,” Motta said. “Just by hearing what they’re saying, and uncovering those needs, we might be able to inadvertently connect them with somebody that could actually help them better themselves and, you know, connect them with other folks in the community and just be able to provide something in their life that they might be in need of and not wanting to ask for.”

For Verdie Bowen, the Director of the State’s Office of Veteran’s Affairs, it was an introduction that was long overdue.

“If we’re not a member of those organizations, sometimes you just don’t know,” Bowen said. “So we have to do even more due diligence to reach them. So it really takes a huge community to ensure that our veterans know about these other things that are out there for them.”

After the meeting officially concluded, individuals continued the conversation with each other while taking the opportunity to swap ideas and business cards. Each with the understanding that while services may vary among organizations, the goal has always remained the same.

“The mission is to ensure that the veteran is pulled back into the community — they feel like they belong,” Bowen stated. “Once you bring them out, and get them together, and they feel part of the team again, then we have a chance of actually making a dent on suicide.”

Alaska Warrior Partnership intends to hold similar meetings once a month through 2023.

If you or someone you know is a veteran in need of assistance, contact Alaska Warrior Partnership to be connected to local resources.