There are disabled and homeless veterans in Southern Maryland and The Veterans Museum at Patriot Park is going to try and help as many of them as it can with a fundraiser event.
The museum, which is located at 11000 Crain Highway in Newburg, planned to host the event from 1 to 3 p.m. this Saturday, Jan. 29. Because of the weekend's impending snowstorm, the event will now be held virtually.
“The premier purpose of the fair is to raise funds for homeless and disadvantaged veterans, and we have a lot of them,” Lawrence Abell, the museum’s president, said. “We want to help veterans and the community and particularly in the weather when it’s cold and many are staying outside or in cars. They don’t have a place to live [so this] is extremely important. I can’t think of anything that’s more important.”
Karla Kornegay enlisted in the U.S. Air Force on Dec. 14, 1994, and over her career has been stationed in Florida, New Jersey, South Korea and Japan, and served in the Middle East.
She was one of the first females to be a mission scheduler in the Air Force. But Kornegay’s military career came to an end Nov. 26, 2006 — after exactly 11 years, 11 months and 11 days — and she is now considered a 100% disabled veteran.
She had qualified for the Officers Training School and Doctor of Physical Therapy programs before she was discharged.
“It’s just really sad to see veterans living in the woods and on the streets and having a hard time in this place called the United States of America,” she said of the need for what she hopes will be an annual event. “So I felt it was my duty to try to bring more awareness.”
She said she hopes the event, which will feature guest speakers from the county and state levels as well as a dinner, will become an annual event.
“As a veteran coming out of the military, [the government’s] transition program is not very good, so you really have to be on your P’s and Q’s,” she said. “Luckily for me, I was a civilian prior [to my military career] so I knew how to navigate the civilian world when it came to job searches. But I realized that if you didn’t have the assistance you needed, even if you had a degree, a lot of these federal government agencies and other organizations would start you at the lowest level unless you knew someone.”
“Think of veterans who have given [a part of] their lives to serve our country and in many cases have come back a person less than what they were than what they were when they went in by no fault of their own,” Abell said. “I think we have a special obligation to try and reach out to these people that are in that type of condition to try and help them.”
She said making $47,000 a year living in Maryland with two children by herself and only surviving on veteran and VA benefits “was not cutting it.”
“[The government] spends money on everything else,” she said, “so why not spend money on those you depend on the most to take care of this country.”
Kornegay said it’s difficult for a veteran to ask for assistance for several reasons.
“There’s pride,” she said, “and they give up because they’ve tried [government assistance] before and it doesn’t help, and the help is minimal and not consistent and so they just give up.”
Abell, who said he’s received a “really great response” about the event, stressed that the museum is there to “support the veterans organizations that are providing these services on a daily basis. We’re not competing with them.”
He also urges veterans to get the help they need and deserve.
“I would simply say to them that there are people who care about you and please don’t feel [like you’re] inadequate or embarrassed because you have a need,” he said. “Just reach out and we’ll all work together to overcome what your personal problem might be.”
For more information or to donate to the event, go to www.eventbrite.com/e/the-veterans-museum-at-patriot-park-hosts-a-fundraiser-for-homeless-vets-tickets-226402244207.