County’s new veterans affairs commission to host meet and greet Dec. 12 in La Plata for military community

FILE PHOTO

In this 2011 photo, Knights of Columbus Color Corps members George Cronin, left center, and Chris Powers hand off wheelchairs on Veterans Day to the Charlotte Hall Veterans Home in St. Mary’s County.

The Charles County Commission for Veterans Affairs will host a meet and greet event on Dec. 12 in La Plata to learn the needs and concerns that pertain to the military community, including local veterans, their families, friends and caregivers.

“We’re a brand new organization set up by the Charles County commissioners [through Resolution 2018-02],” said retired U.S. Army Col. Neil Johnson of Dentsville, who currently serves as chairman of the commission. “Our mission is to provide leadership that creates opportunities for all Charles County veterans and their families. The commission exists to evaluate, develop and promote new and existing programs within the county.”

As a commission dedicated to making Charles County the best place to live, work and start a business in the state, Johnson said an important part of their vision involves offering valuable information that will enrich and enhance the lives of local veterans.

In addition, the group seeks to gather information on different resources that will support the military community’s overall success and comfort, according to Johnson.

“The meet and greet is really designed to get ourselves out in the public and say ‘hi’ to our veterans,” Johnson said. “We don’t really have the funds and resources; we’re just here to assist the veterans in Charles County find the right resources and help that they need. They can voice their concerns or express their support for us and vice versa. It’s important for the public to know that we’re just getting started and don’t want to travel too fast because we want to do it right.”

“We want to assist the veterans in the community and direct them to the right support group that meets their needs,” Johnson added. “That’s the bottom line of our goal — we need to help our veterans so that they [can become better individuals].”

Having served 33 years in the military, Johnson understands firsthand those veterans who may be better identified and served by an organized commission. He said it’s important for the country to thank veterans as “they deserve to be assisted and supported” in the best way possible.

“A lot of us have been very fortunate. I wasn’t hurt [when I served] and am able to do things in life that I had hoped to be doing,” said Johnson, who served separate stints with the U.S. Navy, Army and National Guard. “As a retired guy, I want to pay back the community and who better [to do so] than our veterans. It goes back to our independence and whole history. It’s very heartfelt for me. There are a lot of ladies and gentlemen that have been less fortunate, and those are the ones we need to try to help. And, I think our country needs to help us help them.”

The meet and greet event will be held next Wednesday, from 6-8 p.m., at the Charles County Government Building in La Plata which is located at 200 Baltimore St. Light refreshments will be provided and all attendees are asked to bring a canned food item to donate to the local food bank.

“I’m looking forward to the Holiday Mixer,” said Julie Bryson, a veteran services manager for the county. “The Commission for Veterans Affairs Commissioners desire a strengthened bond with our veteran community and this event is a great opportunity for local veterans to meet and share their thoughts with the Commission.”

For more information, call 301-645-0695. Interested individuals can also send an email to veteransservices@charlescountymd.gov.

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