Athens Hosts 49th Annual Veterans “Supermarket”
BY: VALENTINA URREGO
The 49th annual veterans “supermarket” Wednesday afternoon was held at the Classic Center in Athens, GA. The supermarkets were started in an effort to put all of a veteran’s needs in one place.
“When a veteran is entitled to something he or she is not aware of, it makes their day. We have widows that were married to veterans that were not aware they were entitled to a benefit and when they receive it, it just joys your heart,” said Georgia Commissioner of Veterans Service Mike Roby.
The State Veterans Service Board created the event because they knew many veterans are unaware of their entitlements. These entitlements: could be life changing.
Sadly, after retiring from service, many veterans want little to no relation with the Department of Veteran Affairs, or other government offices, and refrain from seeking their benefits. “I didn’t want anything to do with the VA,” said Vietnam war vet Larry Martin, “I had some bad experiences with being in the military… Vietnam; that was not something I wanted to do at 19 years old. I did my job… I wanted to get as far away as I could from any government office, anything. I just didn’t want a part of it. And most veterans feel that way.”
It was until Martin started noticing some aches and pains years later that he called on the VA for his benefits, and is happy for doing so. He now encourages any other veterans to go and get the help they need, and as he says, “earned”.
The classic center ballroom was filled with service agencies ready to help any veteran that walked through the door. Although the purpose was not to give benefits right then and there, many veterans and family members walked away with more information, or first steps towards the benefits they earned for their time serving the country.
Athens was the natural and honorable choice for the supermarket this year since his predecessor Pete Wheeler, commissioner since 1954, was a graduate from the University of Georgia and had special ties to Athens. Roby wanted to honor him in this way and chose a city meaningful and special to Wheeler, he said. December 2nd was also named “Supermarket of Veterans Benefits Day in Athens-Clarke County by Mayor Nancy Denson.