Coastal Carolina Community College (CCCC) in Jacksonville hosted more than 75 veterans for its annual Veterans Resource Fair, Feb. 14. Various local veterans groups and nonprofit organizations extended a hand to veterans in the area seeking assistance transitioning from the military or looking for other resources.
“We try to give veterans an idea of what resources are available,” said Chris Sabin, director for veteran’s programs at CCCC. “A lot of times they’re really surprised about what resources there are.”
The fair, which is in its eighth year, was Sabin’s brainchild, giving veterans a controlled environment in which to feel a sense of camaraderie. The retired Marine gunnery sergeant, who has been at CCCC for 20 years, believes that the venue and end goal go hand in hand.
“What we really try to do is bring everything together in a low stress environment and show them what’s available. Sometimes at the big spaces, it’s just a lot going on,” Sabin said.
The Jacksonville chapter of Veterans of Foreign Wars, Onslow County Veteran Services, the Jacksonville Veterans Center and the National Association for Black Veterans were among the nonprofit groups that attended the event. Additionally, CCCC had a number of students and counselors available for those seeking to continue their education.
Some students like Alex Clute and Nicole Faison are seeking to combine camaraderie with education. They are the vice president and president, respectively, of CCCC’s new Veterans Club that started last semester. Clute, who served nine years in the Marine Corps, believes the club provides a place to keep veterans together.
“We want to keep the camaraderie moving on past the service,” Clute said.
“You can really find the camaraderie you might have felt like you lost,” added Faison.
Faculty members in attendance pointed out some of the programs in place to help veterans at CCCC. Sabrina Adalin, a military employment specialist with the college, is managing a grant for veterans and military spouses. She spent her time at the fair informing veterans about resources that could cover continuing education as well as on-the-job training for those transitioning out of the military.
“There can be shorter programs like certifications we cover, or we can cover long-term education,” Adalin said.
Terrance Dunn, the computer training coordinator for CCCC, made clear that veterans seeking future employment in the area would not be overlooked.
“We have a testing center on campus which covers programs like Comp TA, A plus, Network plus and Security plus. That’s what a lot of people looking to go into IT need to work on the base,” said Dunn.
James Andersen, a career and placement services coordinator with CCCC, said veterans don’t need to be students to qualify for assistance.
“We serve students as well as the local community, everything from career services to counseling,” Andersen said.
Maritza Hurtado, an academic advisor, said a focus is on helping veterans find trades, “We promote trades for veterans since there are multiple programs they can take. They usually run three weeks or so.”
For veterans seeking time outdoors to soothe their minds and bodies, CCCC hosted local outdoor programs. Possumwood Acres, a wildlife sanctuary in Hubert, had information and a mascot at the event.
“Her name is BB, short for Butter Bean,” said Brooke Noah of the sanctuary’s possum friend.
“Veterans find that, with PTSD, working with animals helps,” said Matthew Togger, an intern with the program who came all the way from West Virginia to help with the program.
Project Healing Waters, a program built around aiding active-duty and veterans with disabilities through fly fishing, had a representative on hand demonstrating how to tie flies.
For veterans suffering from traumatic brain injury (TBI), individuals like Jamie L. Pope were on hand with the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center (DVBIC) to provide perspective as well as aid.
“She does really outstanding work,” said Luis J. Alers, a retired affairs officer who has been working with Pope since her time at Wounded Warrior Battalion-East on Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune.
Pope and DVBIC demonstrated a “brain box” wherein participants had to trace a picture of a star using only a mirror and marker. The difficult task proved to show the kinds of difficulties veterans with TBI experience daily.
“Our main focus is providing education about TBI symptoms and signs… We also support mobile apps from the DoD to reduce symptoms to improve quality of life,” Pope said.
Student Jesse Dollar is engaged in on-the-job training with Veterans Education Programs, which helps students find information about VA benefits.
“I knew something when I was in about benefits from classes I’d taken, but I learned a lot more through the program. … As a student, I found the VA [Veterans Administration] can do a lot. I can jump to another program or go to a whole other college... I plan to get my bachelor’s degree,” said Dollar.