By Chuck N. Baker
(Las Vegas) — You just can’t keep good men and women down, especially in Nevada – especially when they are veterans or provide help to veterans. The Silver State has a large and ever-growing number of male and female veterans who go beyond the call of duty to help others who are ever-thankful for assistance in their work and in their lives. The long-time effort to honor such individuals continues to grow under the tutelage of the Nevada Department of Veterans Services (NDVS), through its dual award programs of Veteran of the Month and Veterans Supporter of the Month.
U.S. Army veteran Paul Martin is a solid achiever who consistently provides multiple, tangible, positive actions that impact the lives of former service people. One of his many laudable accomplishments includes providing medical equipment such as walkers, wheelchairs and lifts to transport power chairs, not to mention the power chairs themselves. His assistance extends to donating specialized items for hospitalized veterans. He supplies adjunct, over-and-above standard equipment that some medical facilities are not always able to provide. At the August Veteran of the Month ceremony at the Grant Sawyer Building, Governor Steve Sisolak told the attendees, “One of the highlights of my month” is to attend ceremonies that honor veterans and their associates. He said that the NDVS “keeps coming up with great nominees,” and added that Martin is so resourceful that when it comes to supplying medical equipment for his fellow veterans, “If they don’t have what they need, Paul finds it for them!” Noting that Martin is a great help to those in need extending even beyond veterans, Sisolak explained that Martin recently delivered “18 wheelchairs to Shriner’s Hospital. He is not just a veteran, he’s a super hero!”
The award for August Veteran Supporter of the Month went to the Southern Nevada Community Engagement Board that was established in 2016 in partnership with the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VA) in North Las Vegas. It has established six pillars that focus on Education, Employment, Transition, Wellness, Women Veterans and Suicide Prevention. Among the many programs the board has coordinated. It hosted a “State of the State” event in 2018. It provided resources and information aimed at those who serve the community and who may have struggled emotionally concerning the suicide of a loved one or of a client. At the time, the board was recognized for its activities by Acting Secretary of Veterans Affairs Peter M. O’Rourke, for “…dedication to strengthen the support of our nation’s veterans and their families, caregivers and survivors.”
Accepting the award for Veterans Supporter of the Month was Board Chair Nina Ridgeway. After the ceremony, she humbly said, “It’s important to have a continuum of care. The people in this room are the ones that make this ship sail.” One of the recent projects overseen by the board consisted of building wheelchair ramps for veterans’ homes. “When they bought their homes 30 years ago, they never thought that they would need a wheelchair,” she said. The board was able to bring together individuals from Home Depot and the North Las Vegas Fire Department Station 51 to supply material and build ramps at no cost to the home owners. Volunteers from numerous fire stations showed up to assist with the construction, she added. Ridgeway and the board remain instrumental in its partnership with the VA by hosting events providing needed information. It produces such gatherings aimed at veterans as Employment Bootcamp, Health and Wellness Fairs, Transition Resource Fairs and similar activities. The fairs provide education and sometimes life-saving details all in one place for veterans and families seeking information that is sometimes difficult to locate otherwise. By supplying necessary support services to the wide-ranging growth and needs of the local veterans-community, Ridgeway and the board excel in penetrating what can be an “invisible wall” of information that can impede communication. Her talent and experience continuously pushes through that wall and ensures that the information is available and easily understood.