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TSTC offers first veterans symposium

By Bridget Ortigo
Oct. 24, 2015 at 4 a.m.

Todd Sneed, left, medical support assistant with Overton Brooks Medical Center in Shreveport, talks Friday with U.S. Air Force veteran Miriam Blackmon during the Veterans Fair at the Texas State Technical College campus in Marshall.

MARSHALL — East Texas veterans had a one-stop shop for resources Friday during the first Veterans Symposium at Texas State Technical College.

The symposium was open to veteran students or veterans of the community.

"We wanted to get as many resources as we could from Shreveport to Tyler together in one convenient location for veterans and our students," event organizer and TSTC Veteran Program Officer Stesha Colby said.

Colby said veterans at the symposium could learn about services and opportunities that benefit them while also networking and socializing with other veterans.

"It's a great way for them to learn about all of it and get connected," said Colby, a U.S. Marine veteran.

One of the organizations on hand to visit with veterans Friday included the Military Veteran Peer Network out of Longview, which Army veteran Jamyra Osborne credits with helping her find a home.

"I was a homeless veteran due to an unexpected job loss and they helped with a deposit on our home, first month's rent and utilities," Osborne said. "Also, our landlord, who was familiar with the program, was very patient and let us move in without putting the money upfront because we were waiting on the paperwork from the grant to go through."

Marshall native and Air Force veteran Taylor Thompson said he had heard of several of the organizations present Friday but had never talked to any of the representatives.

Thompson, who worked ammunitions for the Air Force most recently in Afghanistan, said he was particularly interested in the organization Red White and Blue, which works to increase veterans' social and community involvement.

"Our mission is to enrich the lives of America's veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity like races, fun runs and camps," member and veteran James Cole said. "What I like about this organization is that it's not just veterans that can participate — civilians are welcome, but it's for veterans."

The mobile Vet Center that offers on-site counseling and mental health services for free to veterans and their families also was on hand. The Vet Center got the mobile office trailer in August and regularly visits rural areas and cities.

Disabled American Veterans representative Stephen Pullum was visiting with veterans about his organization and how they will help the veterans get in touch with whatever resources they need.

"We serve all disabled veterans, including those with (post-traumatic stress disorder)," Pullum said. "We work closely with other organizations to get them whatever they need."

Colby said she hopes to have next year's symposium again in October.

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