The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

Local News

August 16, 2013

Warriors help out other warriors

DANVILLE — Veterans might be able to lend a helping hand or words of support to a National Guard member.

The Illinois Warrior to Warrior program seeks veterans to be part of a social and emotional support system for members and their families as they transition to civilian life.

The program, which is starting its second year, has been operating in the Chicago area, and now it’s expanding to other communities across the state. It’s run by Health & Disability Advocates in Chicago, in partnership with the Illinois Army National Guard.

“It’s a unique opportunity to get to someone in uniform and help them,” said Laura Gallagher Watkin, Health & Disability Advocates’ director of veterans programs.

Program coordinator Joe Franzese said, “Most of it is peer support.”

Referring to the veteran volunteers, he added, “From serving in the military, they have a familiarity with different things. We build off what they already know.”

Volunteers must have served in the military and have been honorably discharged. A criminal background check will be conducted.

The volunteers may be from any era, from Korean War up to present-day service, and may have served in any branch. Veterans who served during peace time and who were not deployed also are eligible.

Volunteers will go through an initial four-hour training, and then they will be assigned to a National Guard armory close to where they live. Danville has a National Guard unit. The volunteers will be expected to commit to a few hours once a month.

The volunteer will be assigned to a National Guard member, and offer advice or direction for a variety of readjustment issues, such as financial benefits, educational goals, emotional challenges, substance abuse, legal or job issues. The volunteers will receive training in communication skills and community resources.

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