Independence Day is a National Holiday

Independence Day is a National Holiday, a day of celebration no matter your race, religion or background. The 4th of July is an opportunity to show your love for your Country and appreciation for your freedom. The Red, White and Blue Bunting and Flags will be displayed everywhere as we salute all that we have achieved as we look forward to all that we can accomplish together as a Nation.

Recently, I was asked what the Red, White and Blue VNOC Emblem represented. First and foremost, the primary colors of our logo are a direct correlation to our National Flag that all our Veterans so proudly served under. The logo is in the shape of a “V” as it is the Veterans to whom we so proudly serve. The Red stripe symbolize the Honor, Courage and sacrifice made by all our Military Veterans and White made more stainlessly pure by the motives that impel them. The stars taking on the appearance of changing from White to Blue reflect the struggle and challenges our Veterans face as they make the transition from Military service to Civilian life. To me, this is the most significant part of our logo because that transition back to Civilian life is not easy for any Veteran.

The challenges and struggles are many and vary from one Veteran to the next. With the support of our Partners and Donors, the Professional Case Managers at VNOC are trained to identify and address any and all barriers that confront our local Veterans. So, rest assured that any time you see the VNOC emblem you are in the presence of a dedicated VNOC Sponsor or one of our Professional Veteran Service Providers.

Have a Happy and Safe Independence Day.

Ed “Chief” Mitchell, Executive Director

Thoughts on D-Day and Flag Day

My dad turned 94 years old this past November. Born in 1926, he was only 18 years old when on June 8th, 1944 (D-Day Plus two) he found himself on the beaches of Normandy, France. He made it all the way through to the Battle of the Bulge, the last major German offensive campaign on the Western Front during World War II.

Additionally, my grandmother’s only son, my mother’s only brother, Harrison Bailey of Lawrence, MA, came home in a coffin draped with the American Flag. His burial flag was presented to our family on behalf of the President of the United States and the Chief of Army Operations as a symbol of appreciation for his honorable service and sacrifice made in service to our country.

At an early age, my parents and grandparents instilled in me that love of God, country and respect for others, hard work and sacrifice is what makes this nation great. The American flag is a symbol of this great country. It is a symbol of freedom and sacrifice. I now have possession of that 48-star, American flag, that draped my uncle Harrison’s coffin. I keep it in a place of honor as a reminder to my children of the freedom we inherited. It is our sacred treasure. It is a reminder of the immeasurable cost of our freedom that many American families paid.

June 14th is the birth date of our nation’s flag, adopted in 1777 by a resolution of the Second Continental Congress. This is the day we set aside to educate and remind others of what the American flag represents and what it means to us personally. There are many books written about “our flag.” If I had to pick just one book, it would be “Flags of our Fathers” by James Bradly. Just talk to any veteran and close your eyes. Their personal stories of sacrifice are the thread that is woven into the Red, White and Blue.

Before I had the privilege of hoisting the “Morning Colors” aboard my first Submarine, my Chief made sure I understood what the Colors represented. The Red stripe in our Flag symbolized the Honor, Courage and Sacrifice made by our Country’s Great Defenders of Freedom and the White made more pure by the motives that impelled them. The constellation of Stars represents the fifty individual states governed by one Constitution. The canton of blue signifies the loyalty and unity of our citizens indivisible with Liberty and Justice for All.

When I look at Old Glory freely waving in the wind, I see my dad, uncle and all those who made the sacrifice necessary to secure our freedom. I see Americans from all walks of life, male, female, Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, farmers, city slickers, white, black, brown, red and yellow — these are all Americans defending freedom.

At VNOC, we all respect and honor all Americans fighting for their freedom….

Ed Mitchell, VNOC Executive Director

Memorial Day

Monday May 25th, Memorial Day, our Nation’s Flag will be flying at Half-Mast for part of the day. Here is the story of why – first, she will be hoisted to the peak of the Mast for an instant and then lowered to Half-Mast position in recognition of our fallen heroes. Then at Noon, the flag is raised to Full-Mast by the living, “who resolve not to let their sacrifice be in vain, but to rise up in their stead and continue the fight for liberty and justice for all.” At 3:00 PM, there will be a National Moment of Silence. We ask that you take that moment to honor those who have served, those that are serving, and those we have lost through service.

This Memorial Day weekend will be like no other. For generations, on the last Monday in May, Veterans and fellow Patriots join together to remember and memorialize all those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our great Country. For the first time since the Civil War we as grateful citizens will not be able to come together and support each other in solidarity and share stories of Americas Great Defenders of Freedom.

For our Veterans who have endured the hardship of losing a comrade, a Brother or Sister, a combat buddy, this Memorial Day will be extremely challenging. For those who have lost loved ones, family members, friends or a neighbor, this Memorial Day will be more somber and very difficult. Though there will be no parades or ceremonies this Memorial Day and we will not be with you to support you and show our appreciation, please know that our thoughts and prayers will be with you and your families.

I am confident in stating that all VNOC staff are extremely grateful for the sacrifices of our Fallen Heroes and we will never forget the cost of liberty and that we have a sacred honor to preserve it. God Bless America and all those who Defend Her!

God bless America
Land that I love
Stand beside her
And guide her
Through the night with the light from above
From the mountains
To the prairies
To the oceans
White with foam
God bless America
My home sweet home

Please take a moment of silence to remember those who have sacrificed all, and those who are willing to do so every day. We are the United States of America! May God Bless and keep you!

A Special Thank You

As the Executive Director, I have been blessed with a dedicated and professional staff and exceptional community supporters committed to caring for all those who have borne the burden, made the difficult sacrifices and suffered the wounds while serving this great Nation.

It is no accident our main office and welcome center is located at Saint Rita’s Church in Haverhill. Saint Rita has acquired the reputation, together with St. Jude, as a Saint of impossible cases. She is also the patron Saint of sterility, abuse victims, loneliness, marriage difficulties, parenthood, widows, the sick, bodily ills, and wounds.

I would like to personally thank Congresswoman Laurie Trahan and State Representative Linda Dean Campbell and their superb staff for their outstanding support and guidance. Because of their exceptional support and that provided by Secretary Francisco Urena and his dedicated staff at DVS, we at the VNOC have not only been able to maintain our intake and supportive services we have been able to increase these services for our Veterans.

During this time of uncertainty, when our Veterans are relying on us the most, our staff has increased our housing support, our transportation and food services. Our dedicated staff remains in constant contact with our Veterans to ensure all needs are met, including having all our veterans residing in our cognitive living facilities tested for COVID-19. Again, because of the dedicated VNOC staff, keeping all facilities sanitized and accommodating the social distancing, all the tests for COVID-19 were negative.

Thank you to all VNOC employees. Because of your outstanding performance throughout this pandemic our ability to deliver the invaluable supportive services to our military veterans continues uninterrupted. The VNOC remains COVID free thanks to the hard work of all VNOC employees and our partners at DVS, MEMA, VA Medical Centers, Mass Military Support Foundation and the outstanding support of our elected officials.

We at VNOC have also been blessed to have established exceptional comradery with many Community Veterans Service Officer’s, to include, the extremely dedicated Haverhill VSO Amanda Buckley. Under the leadership of Mayor James Fiorentini, VSO Amanda Buckley, and Community Development Director Andrew Hurley have provided outstanding support and resources that enabled the VNOC to continue to improve upon and increase the supportive services we provide to our local veterans.

Amanda Buckley’s service as a veteran advocate has been as exemplary as her service in the Marine Corps. We at the VNOC are extremely saddened to learn that Amanda will be leaving her position as Haverhill VSO. Though we are comforted with the knowledge that no matter where her life’s journey may take her, she will always be a strong advocate for all veterans.

“Fair winds and following seas” to Amanda Buckley and her family.

Hail and Farewell

Hail to our new Board of Directors members. We are excited to “Welcome Aboard”: Lenin Roa of Lawrence MA. Lenin is a Retired Navy Veteran and a Realtor with Coco and Early. Danielle Donohue of Methuen MA. Danielle is an Army Veteran and Director of Sober House in Methuen MA. Each of our new Board Members bring unique talent and experience that will be of great value to Team VNOC as we continue to improve upon and expand the programs and services, we provide our Veterans and their families. A Huge Farewell goes out to long time Board Member and Army Veteran, Joe Hey. Joe was born and still resides in Lawrence MA. He was instrumental to the Veterans Housing and organizational expansion provided through the late Director John Ratka. Joe’s local knowledge, insight and comradery will be greatly missed by his fellow Board Members and the entire VNOC Staff, though, we are comforted with the knowledge of his remaining on the BOD Presidents Advisory Committee. Thank you Joe for your outstanding Volunteerism.

Thank You All

As the month of April 2020 draws to a close, we at the VNOC find ourselves extremely fortunate. None of our VNOC staff members or Veterans under our care have shown any signs or symptoms of the COVID-19 virus. Working closely with the Department of Veterans Services and the VA Bedford Medical personnel, we were able to have 66 Veterans under our GPD programs tested for the COVID-91 virus. All 66 Veterans test results were negative for the virus.

I am extremely pleased to take this opportunity to personally thank every fellow employee at the VNOC for their outstanding work and tireless dedication to serving and protecting our Great Defenders of Freedom.


  • By adhering to the Governors “Stay at Home” order, social distancing, personal hygiene and constant sanitizing of all surfaces combined with lots of praying, we have been able to continue providing the HIGHEST QUALITY of Professional services to our Veterans and their families. Even with a reduced staff at all of our facilities, we have been able to provide intake services for our Veterans in need. During this period, when our Veterans are relying on us the most, we have greatly increased our Food Pantry services. As we work with local volunteers, and staff filling in where needed, we have been able to provide Food Pantry “pop-up” locations in Haverhill and Danvers – every other week – in partnership with Mass Military Services Foundation’s Food4Vets Program (refer to news story and links to register for food pick up).

With the continued support from organizations like the Lawrence Elks Lodge and local restaurant, Raff’s Café, VNOC has been able to provide exceptional meals to our veterans without interruption and support a local Veteran owned business (refer to story in our news section).

It is unprecedented times like this that bring out the very best in all of us. The VNOC can provide comfortable shelter and a warm meal every day to our Veterans. Every Veteran has the best supportive services available, unmatched by any other Service Provider in the Country. We can only provide these exceptional services to our Veterans thanks to our community partners and the generous donations from local citizens.

We continue to maximize these resources (monetary, food, and gift card donations) through our outstanding Professional Staff who pride themselves in Competency and Clarity. This competency and clarity is prevalent throughout the VNOC organization to include our outstanding leadership at the Board of Directors level.

You can help the Veteran community by donating to VNOC by clicking HERE.