Foxborough has marked its first Lives lost were commemorated and somber words said.
It was striking the way Foxborough came together to remember to never forget the heroes and veterans who bravely fought for freedom.
The event served as a reminder of how valiantly our soldiers fought for the country and also to remind us of the bitter fate of those captured and missing in a foreign land. It was an extremely moving tribute to the men and women of our community who served their country with duty and without question.
Participating in the ceremony was Michael Johns, retired Navy lieutenant commander, helicopter pilot and Persian Gulf (Bosnia) veteran now serving as Foxborough's Veterans Agent.
Recently, Patch had the opportunity to speak with Johns at his office located in town hall. Johns was asked to describe a typical day as a Veterans Agent.
“Every day is different and never the same,” he said. “First and foremost, phone calls and e-mails are returned from the night prior and any issues that have come up are taken care of. There may be an immediate need for individual or family counseling, financial counseling due to a financial hardship, transportation, handicap accessibility, or homeless issues.”
He went on to speak about the Veteran’s Administration in Boston. “The VA is a terrific system, however the services are daunting to someone just returning home. Most, if not all soldiers are provided an exit day filled with papers, information, phone numbers, etc. It is overwhelming at best to decipher and sift through the amount of services that may be available.
"Most veterans just want to get home and get on with their lives. They may not know the types of services they need until they are home. Having these benefits at the town level is critical. It is my job to be there for these vets when they need support and services.”
Additionally, Johns is responsible for explaining benefits and how and when applications for services should be filed. Some of the requests that are very high on the list are benefits awareness, processing issues and reintegration back into the community.
Many soldiers are returning with PTSD (Post-traumatic stress syndrome) and more returning soldiers are facing a weak job market.
Johns counsels these returning veterans with the respect and confidentiality they deserve and works diligently for support systems such as working closely with the Department of Labor for jobs and skill sets training that will enable our soldiers to have a better quality of life for themselves and their families. He continues to do outreach on a daily basis to inform veterans and their families of services offered.
Johns was asked what the differences are between the current and past wars.
“We’ve learned the hard lessons of Vietnam,” he said. “Trauma is now being recognized as a real thing. Experience and life lessons has made the difference and public attitude has changed somewhat.”
One of the challenges that Johns is facing at the present time is the need for volunteers to drive veterans to doctor’s appointments or grocery shopping.
If you would like additional information about how to volunteer and help out, please feel free to contact Michael Johns at 508) 543-1204, or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.