Thursday, November 18, 2010

Steve Russell Forms New Veterans' Group

Senator Steve Russell has announced the formation of a group to raise awareness and address the needs of America’s veterans and their families.

The effort will be formally revealed in Oklahoma City next Sunday, November 21st at 2:00 pm at the Oklahoma War Memorial at 23rd and Lincoln near the Oklahoma State Capitol.

Several professional organizations will explain initiatives in which they will participate as part of the “Pros for Vets” effort, including a major initiative on behalf of veterans by the Oklahoma Bar Association. Bar Association President-Elect Deborah Reheard will provide details on the “Oklahoma Lawyers for America's Heroes” effort which will assist veterans with legal issues.

"The project will provide a lasting tribute to Oklahoma's veterans for perhaps hundreds of years," said Russell, who gained national recognition for his role in the hunt and capture of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. "It is something we've been quietly working for some time to memorialize the fallen--the true heroes of Oklahoma."

Russell said the initiative will encompass support to families of the fallen, the war wounded, and returning veterans.

The participants in the “Pros for Vets” effort include such leaders as retired Major General Rita Aragon; Russell, retired lieutenant colonel and Founder of Vets for Victory; retired Major Ed Pulido, wounded Iraqi war veteran and spokesperson for Folds of Honor; Colonel William B. Grimes, Chief of Staff and Deputy Commander for Administration, Ft. Hood Medical Center; Major Stan Evans, Dean of Students of the University of Oklahoma Law School; University of Oklahoma and NFL greats Roy Williams of the Cincinnati Bengals and Tommie Harris of the Chicago Bears; Invisible Bracelet inventor Noah Roberts of the Docvia Corporation; and internationally-acclaimed motorcycle designer and Gulf War veteran Dar Holdsworth.

Lauren Guhl, an Oklahoma City attorney at the Whitten Burrage Law Firm, has been selected to be the Executive Director of the group.

“The problems facing America’s veterans continue to grow unchecked. For example, there is now a huge backlog of cases in the Veteran’s Administration dealing with Agent Orange, although, that war was fought four decades ago. More and more evidence indicates Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) issues extend as far back as World War II veterans, and the suicide rate among Iraq and Afghanistan veterans is skyrocketing,” said Guhl. “There is simply so much more that needs to be done for our nation’s heroes and Pros for Vets will strive to meet those needs.”

Ms. Guhl, whose father served two tours of duty in Vietnam before he lost his life in a training accident in 1987 at Ft. Hood in Texas, says the effort features the star power needed to illuminate to the public the grave problems facing those warriors who have protected our freedoms.

“First, Americans must accept that our veterans face difficult problems long after the ticker tape parades are over, and then we must mobilize Americans from many key fields to solve some of these key problems,” she added.

The idea for “Pros for Vets” comes from Whitten Newman Foundation President Reggie Whitten, whose father was a World War II veteran.

“Enormous problems exist for our veterans returning from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Recently, Lauren and I saw firsthand the devastating physical toll the wars have taken on the young men and women of the Armed Services when we visited Ft. Hood and Brooke Army Medical Center. Further, many times the devastating effects of war include scars you cannot see on the outside: divorce, mental illness, alcoholism, drug abuse and, of course, the suicide epidemic,” said Whitten. “We owe our veterans a great debt, and the bill is getting larger. The many organizations contributing to Pros for Vets are doing their part to help, and we vow to make every effort to help America’s veterans.”

The unveiling of the effort is open to the public and will last approximately a half an hour. Veterans and those that support them are encouraged to attend.

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