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Veterans keep vow to never leave one behind

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The military has its own “corporate culture” that civilians just don’t understand.

Soldiers often distill it down to the motto, “embrace the suck.”

Those in uniform struggle on without complaint and don’t ask for help, especially help from civilians or even from the government they wrote a check in the amount of “up to and including their lives” to protect.

And that culture is killing them. A veteran commits suicide once an hour, double the civilian rate.

A third of all homeless men are veterans, some 300,000 on any given night. Services to help are available of course, but veterans struggle on and largely “embrace the suck” instead of asking for assistance.

Navy veteran Alfredo "Tito" Medina and former Army soldier Scot Pondelick have cobbled together a roster of some 130 veteran-focused resource groups to host a third annual Veterans Resource Fair set for 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, May 30 at the Tacoma Dome to change that.

Last year’s event drew 1,013 veterans and their family members, and this year will likely top that. But with 600,000 veterans in Puget Sound, the need far outweighs that capacity.

“I think it is messed up that the biggest veteran event we have is a parade that people see and then just go home,” Medina said.

Nonprofits at the free event will connect veterans with community services,

VA benefits, legal services, homeless services, educational benefits, medical screenings, dental resources and support networks, courtesy of an army of mostly veteran volunteers.

Everything is done by volunteers, from the painting of dozens of sandwich board signs and waving flags over Interstate 5, marketing the event to staffing informational booths, to providing haircuts and dental screenings, to offering job referrals and employment placement services to handing out backpacks, sleeping bags and boots to all veterans in need.

“We do this as individuals,” Medina said. We call ourselves a humongous community of partners.”

Medina and Pondelick raise money through on-line donations and a few sponsorships, but spend thousands of dollars of their own money to keep the event free for both veterans and the long list of cottage non-profits tasked with helping them.

“They don’t have the budget to pay a vendor fee or anything like that to get into an event like this,” Medina said. “We offer this as a service to the community. It takes us about six months to put this together.”

The event is sponsored by The Department of Veterans Affairs, the National Alliance to End Veteran Suicide, Sea Mar, Military Veteran Solutions, the Washington State Department of Veteran Affairs, Humana, the Puyallup Tribe of Indians, DAV, Tacoma Public Utilities and the Tacoma-Pierce County Bar Association.

More information is available at: http://theveteransresourcefair.us or on Facebook at : http://www.facebook.com/TheVeteransResourceFair. ;

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