MONTROSE – It has been said the military is one big family. But when the career of a military man or woman is over, the uniform stored away, a void can grow; where once order and purpose existed is now replaced with doubt and fear. The operators of Welcome Home Montrose know this.
Last year marked the first full calendar year of the organization’s operating its Warrior Resource Center, at 11 South Park Ave.,
To date, So far 516 area veterans are registered with the WRC, according to a recent report.
In 2013 nearly 190 volunteers performed approximately 8,650 hours of service with the WRC. And while hundreds of veterans have registered, it’s the fast-growing number of veterans' spouses that makes organizers especially organizers proud.
To date, the WRC has about 70 spouses registered; each month, it hosts a "Spouse Luncheon" where those once "married to the military" can come together.
Perhaps most especially for those “who married a veteran who has PTSD, they had no idea what they were getting into, there is no way to prepare for that," said WRC Director Emily Smith.
Smith, whose husband Sheldon is an army soldier, said the monthly luncheons are just the newest program the WRC has created to support spouses needing guidance or just "someone to talk to." They draw attendees from young to old who are married to veterans who have served in American conflicts dating back to World War II.
"Take a minute and imagine living with someone who cannot sit relaxed in a movie theater, or who must leave a restaurant without eating, because the only table available doesn’t allow for their back to be towards a wall. Put yourself in the shoes of the spouse who understands what the word sacrifice truly means," Smith wrote recently.
Military spouses are found all over the community ranging in "age, experience, personality, culture, and appearance, but all share common ground," she said.
“At each luncheon, new faces arrive. Some of these military spouses have discovered the group on their own; others learned from their veteran. There are some who come with another spouse who has already been attending. New friendships are made that carry beyond the luncheons and offer constant emotional support and understanding. Every spouse is welcome to attend and socialize. They represent all the eras, all the branches, all abilities; they are the military families of the Western Slope,” Smith said.
In 2013, Smith said, donations by Brightleaf Power, the Montrose Women’s Club and the Black Canyon Jet Center have provided funding for the luncheons. Catering by Pollo Asado, R N R Sports Bar, Horsefly Brewing Company, Menudo’s, Domino’s, Qdoba, Debbie Ferris, Joyce Loss, Sara McCombs and Kathy Lingo provided food for these luncheons in 2013. Volunteer Debbie Ferris coordinates the monthly event and, with the help of Irene Packard, Stacia Shier and Mysti Miller, calls to invite all 70-plus spouses registered at the WRC.
“Spouse luncheons and other family social activities at the Warrior Resource Center are very important ways Montrose volunteers work to break down barriers and to show true military support. The words “thank you” just aren’t enough,” Smith said.
Also in 2013 the WRC recorded over 400 unique visitors to its website, www.welcomehomemontrose.org in 2013. Many of those visitors came from states competing for the All America City award, which Montrose received in 2013 for its spotlight in helping veterans.
"I'm so proud of our accomplishments and our amazing staff," said WHM founder Melanie Kline.
Kline said this year the WRC is working to complete at a memorial wall and small museum, as well as a party for WWII and Korean Veterans and are preparing to host veterans from the U.S.S. Montrose this coming June.
WHM is also seeking donations through its "We've got your six pledge drive" with a goal of 2,000 donors giving six dollars each month to the WRC. That money will be used to help the staff continue their efforts to serve local veterans.
For more information visit: www.welcomehomemontrose.org., or call 970/765-2210.