Agency reaches out to aid area veterans following hike to raise awareness

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WAMPSVILLE — After hiking through 22 kilometers of Madison County, the director of the Madison County Veterans Service Agency encourages everyone to do what they can for their local veterans.

The 22-kilometer hike — from Oneida to Canastota — represented the 22 veterans nationwide who take their own lives each day. Although that number has decreased in recent years, Ron Raymer, director of the agency and a U.S. Navy veteran, said the fact remains that even one veteran lost to suicide is one too many.

Raymer said the Agency’s job is to assist veterans in any way they can, including drawing attention to needed mental health supports for veterans. “PTSD is very real and, unfortunately, very common. We’ve been in conflict for almost 20 years now,” Raymer said. “Mental health for anybody, whether they’re military or civilian, is at the forefront [of concerns].”

PTSD, depression, and anxiety can seriously harm the veteran community and make many people start to feel like their life isn’t worth living. And with COVID-19 closing down almost everything, the Madison County Veterans Service Agency has found it hard to reach out to the community and let them know help is available.

“Normal and traditional outreach programs, like going to events and setting up a booth, have been hamstrung,” Raymer said. “We would go there to show people if they need help, they’ve got the resources. Even if it’s just to file benefits.”

And just because COVID has dominated everyone’s life, doesn’t mean the other problems have disappeared. To that end, Raymer and employees of the Veterans Service Agency got together to figure out a way to raise awareness — and settled on the hike. “This isn’t anything new,” Raymer said. “People have been doing walks and awareness hikes all over. We just wanted to bring something home.”

Raymer encouraged people to spread the word about the Agency and what help it can give to local veterans. If you are a veteran in crisis or are concerned about one, help is just a phone call away. The Veterans Crisis Line can be reached at 1-800-273-8255 or text 838255.

For information about the MCVSA go online to https://www.madisoncounty.ny.gov/169/Veterans-Service-Agency.

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