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Opening Doors for Virginia's Veterans

March 30, 2009

Petersburg, VA - The state's first Veterans Information and Resource Center opens its doors today. The center will serve more than 50,000 veterans in the Tri-Cities area and is just the beginning, as centers are planned statewide.

The effort is sponsored by the nonprofit Association for Wounded Veterans Changing Lifestyle. Tammi Nichols is a community organizer with the Virginia Organizing Project, a supporter of the centers. She's also a U.S. Army veteran who served as part of a combat stress-control unit in Iraq. She says the centers will work hand-in-hand with Virginia's Department of Veterans' Affairs to help bridge the gap between services and veterans.

"A lot of times we come back and we transition right into our lives - our daily lives - but we've been affected. Combat changes anybody and everybody, so when you go to a different environment altogether, it's going to have an effect on you."

Nichols says that while many services exist for veterans, what's often missing is coordination of those efforts.

"What happens is, we have services, but they're not so easy to get to. If they come back to these rural communities, they really don't know what's out there for them. In addition, they must be able to have the particular type of service they need - that service must be available."

In the coming months, Nichols says, similar information centers will open across the state to care for Virginia's more than 807,000 veterans. Nchols adds that the centers also will provide support to the veteran's family and loved ones - all in an effort to ease the transition back home.

Aries Keck, Public News Service - VA