‘On The Map’ visits VFW National Home helping veterans transition into civilian life

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Our latest “On The Map” series brings us around the state to visit transitions involving people, service animals, and technology.

We take a closer look now at a non-profit working to help veterans and their families transition into civilian life.

The VFW National Home for Children sits on 629 acres in Eaton Rapids.

Veterans or active-duty persons and their families come from all over the country.

They live in one of the 40-single family homes on the property.

Many of the veterans have financial, physical or mental health struggles.

Shawn Hoskins is from Ohio. He’s a 20-year veteran of the U.S. Navy, including three tours in Iraq.

He also has PTSD.

“If we didn’t get that awesome break that we got with the VFW, I probably wouldn’t be here, I probably would have committed suicide. I was on the verge of that. I was leaning heavily toward that.”

Hoskins stayed at the National Home with his wife and 2 children from 2012 to 2014.

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A study by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs found that 20 percent of veterans involved in Iraq have PTSD.

Hoskins said PTSD, coupled with financial issues pushed him to seek out a safe place.

“Anything and everything we needed was there at the house, they provided furniture they provided the little things, silverware, blankets, pillows, they provided everything that we needed to survive and live there.”

Through counseling, financial seminars and one – on – one work, the Hoskins family was able to get back on their feet.

“It can almost be looked at like a retreat. You know, to get away, to relax, to learn, to get educated. Looking back at it it’s kind of like a retreat.”

Hoskins is right. Something about the open air, the quaint houses and the welcoming people feel like a weekend getaway.

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“So these are a couple of the newer places, this is a duplex that the UAW helped build.”

Sue Alverson is the Development Director at the National Home. She takes me on a tour through the campus.

“Ooooh let’s start with education, we have mentoring, we have a science lab, we have a math lab, we have a library in the community center. We have life skill classes, we have 4-H.”

There’s one thing in common with each of the programs available – whether it’s for children or the parents.

“Definitely about getting the people on their feet. And we’ve had it referred to as a once in a lifetime opportunity, to come and get all of this help where the case manager just embraces them and helps them through whatever they’re going through.”

Families can stay at the home for up to 4 years.

Hoskins said the bonds created and lessons learned will last a lifetime.

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“We all became one big happy family. We would let each other know when we were going out of town, or we weren’t going to be there.”

Meghan McBride works for communications at the National Home.

She said the strongest bonds are between the children.

“Whatever situation they were in it varies, but it wasn’t good. And to see how well they’re doing now and how supportive of each other they are makes me happy.”

Helping veterans fulfill their lives, and transition back into civilian life – it’s all in day’s work at the VFW National Home.