United Way of Northeastern Minnesota's program to support local Iron Range veterans and their families.

"United for Veterans" is United Way of Northeastern Minnesota's new program focusing on Iron Range veterans and their families.

Over the past couple of years, veterans and their family members have expressed the critical need for expanded, wrap-around services throughout our rural communities to United Way staff, board and volunteers. Understanding the need, UWNEMN recruited Wilder Research to help determine the most critical issues for UWNEMN to focus on. Wilder Research spent the better part of the past year conducting Key Informant Interviews with veterans, their family members and local service providers.

Veterans expressed their biggest challenges were related to healthcare services which included long wait times, long distance travel, few qualified providers that understand, and concerns with social stigma and confidentiality. A family member expressed concern regarding their father,“There is such a stigma around mental health and seeking out help…. They are trained to be strong, they are trained to shut off that emotional part of them….,” Additional struggles expressed were issues with financial stability and employment as well as the culture shock when returning to civilian life. One veteran who served during Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF) stated, “Emotional bonding levels are challenging. They want to know exactly what happened, what I did, but I get frustrated telling the story over and over again…”

UWNEMN is focusing on the critical issues at hand with the support of a committee comprised of local veterans. United for Veterans is moving the following:

1. We partnered with the Minnesota Military Family Assistance Center and the 148th Fighter Wing to update and publish the Military Connections Directory - a guide of services and programs accessible to Iron Range veterans.

2. We are working with Hibbing Community College to develop a veterans' lounge on campus. This will create a space for the veteran's service officer to office, as well as a space for veterans to study and convene.

3. We are in the process of partnering with a local therapist to provide free, confidential therapy sessions to veterans in our region.

Your support of United for Veterans is greatly appreciated!