MORRIS COUNTY, NJ – Morris County is expanding programs offered through its Veterans Services Office by creating three new services to address the needs of military personnel returning from Afghanistan and elsewhere.
The initiative was unanimously approved by the Morris County Board of County Commissioners upon the recommendation of Commissioner John Krickus, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran. The plan is to support the programs with funds made available to Morris County through the American Rescue Plan Act.
“After the recent events in Afghanistan the need for supporting our veterans has increased. We want our Iraq, Afghanistan veterans to know that we not only honor their service on Veterans Day and Memorial Day, but we are here to support you every day of the year,” Krickus said.
The three programs were outlined at last week’s Board of Commissioners meeting by Christine Hellyer, Director of the Morris County Office on Aging, Disabilities & Community Programming. She also introduced the county’s two Veterans Services Officers, Jessica Tomalo and Maria Salazar. Salazar is a veteran who served in Iraq.
“The County is looking to partner with community-based organizations to provide services that offer greater support to veterans and their families, and create a support network,” said Hellyer.
The services outlined included:
“Peer to Peer Support Counseling”
- This service is not currently available in Morris County. A non-profit agency will be enlisted to facilitate veterans being counseled by fellow veterans who shared similar experiences, who have an understanding of veteran issues and can empathically support clients.
“Veteran and Family Support”
- This also involves enlisting a non-profit partner to help veterans re-establish themselves with their families and assist the veterans with family issues such as employment, education, financial planning and any special needs.
“Veteran Roundtables & Events”
- This in-house service will involve organizing veteran events and gatherings, bringing veterans together in social settings.
“We are fortunate to have Maria and Jessica, who have great backgrounds working with veterans, and that experience as well as Maria’s service in Iraq will do a great deal to inform these programs,” Krickus said, as he met with the veteran services officers this week.
The new programs are not yet available, but interested veterans may check with the Morris County Veterans Services Office website for when they are open and for services already offered.
Commissioner Krickus also met with the veterans services officers to continue working on designs for two new Morris County Distinguished Military Service Medals. The Board of County Commissioners created the medals more than 20 years ago to honor residents who served honorably in the military. While many who have served during military actions in Iraq and Afghanistan over the years have received Distinguished Military Service Medals for their service, the Commissioners agreed last month with a request by Commissioner Krickus to create two new medals specifically identifying service in those regions.
Veterans may find out more about the medals on the Morris County website.