Asking For Your Help

At this uncertain time, we all receive more “asks” for donations than ever before. Looking around you can certainly understand why that is the case. Many organizations are unable to provide the support they have in the past to the local non-profit communities because their own businesses haven’t been opened or if they are, their business has been significantly curtailed. Many individuals may have been furloughed or even laid off as a result of the pandemic. State and federal programs have seen their funds needing to be spread out over a wider set of needs, or have been significantly cut or worse case, both.

Most of us don’t realize that it is the community that supports the community non-profit organizations on a local basis. This directs much of the local support for non-profits right back into the community itself, multiplying the impact that the local donation can create. Helping organizations meet their community-based missions – housing, food, financial assistance, job training, counseling, advocacy, etc. are all critically important programs that exist to help the community stay healthy and viable.

At Veterans Northeast Outreach Center, we rely on the local community – businesses and individuals – that understand and support our mission – to help us provide the highest quality professional services to the men and women (and in many cases, their families) that have served in our country’s military. They are our neighbors, they work in our community, they shop in our businesses – they are part of our community!

Keep in mind that donating locally has many benefits:

  • You know how your money is being used
  • More of your investment is going directly to providing needed services
  • Community organizations employ community residents
  • You know who you are working with
  • Even a small contribution can make a big difference to your neighbor
  • You can easily visit a local organization to see what they do with your donation

We are asking for your help us help the veterans of your community!

Life is Too Short

Last Friday, we had our first formal get-together and cook-out. It was great to have most of the VNEOC team together as we continue to practice social distancing.

We took this time to reflect and remember our late Executive Director Command Master Chief John Ratka. Those of you who attended his wake received a memorial card, which read “LIFE IS TOO SHORT.”

Life is too short to live with regrets so love the people who treat you right. Forget about those who do not. Believe everything happens for a reason. If you get a chance, take it. If it changes your life, let it. Nobody said life would be easy. They just promised it would most likely be worth it…

Every employee here plays an important role in changing the lives of those going through difficult times. Sometimes it can be as simple as a smile, a gesture, or word of recognition. More often, though, it will require time, patience and commitment.

We here at VNEOC are changing the lives of those who served our Country in defense of Freedom. We owe it to ourselves and those we serve to continue to improve and strive to perfect our lives, mentally, physically and spiritually. We do this, and we will always be prepared to improve the lives of others and provide them with opportunities and upward mobility. It won’t be easy, but I promise, it most likely will be worth it.

VNEOC has been changing the lives of Veterans for 35 years. John Ratka spent nearly 20 years working to improve this organization and increase our ability to change the lives of the Veterans we serve. His tireless dedication to increase the services and resources for our veterans was remarkable and we the leadership team remain committed to his agenda.

No one is more committed to improving this organization than our Supportive Services Department Director, Master Sergeant, Scot Forbes US Airforce (Ret), a Veteran who saw a chance and took it. Originally hired as a Case Manager for our Transition in Place (TIP) program, Scott Forbes would quickly display his leadership qualities and advance to Program Manager. His situational awareness and exceptional organizational skills quickly transformed TIP. It wasn’t long before his outstanding deeds would propel him to a well-deserved upper management position as Supportive Services Department Director.

Scot Forbes’ deeds are well documented and widely recognized. His commitment to this organization was recognized and greatly appreciated by the Board of Directors. They realized that his professional leadership helped preserve the unique requirements and professional goals of the organization and the Veterans we serve. On Friday July 31st, the Board of Directors ceremoniously promoted him to the position of “Chief Operations Officer”

Congratulations Chief Operations Officer Scot Forbes! We look forward to a highly successful career at VNEOC and many more accomplishments and accolades.

There were many other staff members who have displayed outstanding dedication to our organization and the Veterans we serve during this COVID-19 pandemic, and I look forward to sharing their accomplishments and recognition in my next posting.

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.