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Improving quality of life for veterans discussed at inaugural Greater Bemidji Veterans Coalition meeting

Veterans service officers, employment specialists and other advocates of the Greater Bemidji Veterans Coalition came together to create a community conversation on improving the quality of life and tailoring to the needs of veterans and their families on Tuesday, May 24, at the Beltrami County Administration Building.

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Dean Dauphinais, a Marine Corps veteran, leads a conversation on tailoring to the needs of local veterans and their families on Tuesday, May 24, 2022, during a Greater Bemidji Veterans Coalition meeting at the Beltrami County Administration Building in Bemidji.
Maggi Fellerman / Bemidji Pioneer
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BEMIDJI — Veterans service officers, employment specialists and other advocates of the Greater Bemidji Veterans Coalition came together to create a community conversation on improving the quality of life and tailoring to the needs of veterans and their families on Tuesday, May 24, at the Beltrami County Administration building.

Dean Dauphinais, a Marine Corps veteran who led the meeting, dedicates his life to advocating for the underserved veteran population.

Dauphinais explained that each year, the U.S. military recruits thousands of young Americans with a promise to take care of those who serve. U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard all pledge to never leave a fallen comrade behind. The Department of Veterans Affairs works to fulfill this same promise on behalf of a grateful nation.

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Members of the Greater Bemidji Veterans Coalition discuss issues surrounding the needs of veterans and their families on Tuesday, May 24, 2022, at the Beltrami County Administration Building in Bemidji.
Maggi Fellerman / Bemidji Pioneer

Many veterans feel that these benefits often fail to support modern soldiers' transitions to civilian life. Survivors are left with invisible wounds that require services. From getting a veteran off the street to mental health services to college applications, the VA strives to provide the care veterans need.

Attendees of the meeting discussed that one problem facing veterans is struggling to access the benefits, being unsure if they qualify, or are unaware of the mental health services available. The VA’s complex system can be hard to navigate resulting in eligible veterans not getting care in a timely, convenient manner.

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“It’s really eye-opening to see what goes on when veterans are struggling, whether it be mental health, substance abuse, homelessness, etc.,” Dauphinais said. “I really put it on my heart to do anything I can wherever I can to help a fellow brother or sister in arms.”

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Herold Lindsay, a Cass Lake social worker, speaks at a Greater Bemidji Veterans Coalition meeting on Tuesday, May 24, 2022, at the Beltrami County Administration Building in Bemidji.
Maggi Fellerman / Bemidji Pioneer

The vision of GBVC is to honor the nation's commitment to veterans, their families and significant others by leading collaboration in the Bemidji area. Dauphinais believes that with the help of the community, the gaps in the VA’s system can be filled.

“My hope is that from this group, we can collectively help shape what this coalition is,” Dauphinais said. “We can never do enough for our veterans.”

With that goal in mind, VA services and all veteran organizations of Bemidji are coming together to advocate for the veteran community with greater conversation, communication and coordination among programs that serve veterans and their families.

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Former Beltrami County Commissioner and veteran Joe Vene speaks during a Greater Bemidji Veterans Coalition meeting on Tuesday, May 24, 2022, at the Beltrami County Administration Building in Bemidji.
Maggi Fellerman / Bemidji Pioneer

“Everybody in here is doing good work (helping local veterans get the care they deserve) but what could we do if we came together to solve problems?” Dauphinais asked the group. “The government carries a big load in terms of compensation, grants, benefits — and that’s great. But there are gaps, there are things (the VA doesn't) do that communities can definitely do.”

He also emphasized the importance of veterans making connections in the community.

“I hope that we can bring veterans in and they can find some connections, find camaraderie, find a fishing buddy or whatever it is,” Dauphinais concluded. “Maybe we can be that community with them. It’s the little things that go a long way.”

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A veteran speaks during a Greater Bemidji Veterans Coalition meeting on Tuesday, May 24, 2022, at the Beltrami County Administration Building in Bemidji.
Maggi Fellerman / Bemidji Pioneer
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Advocates of the Greater Bemidji Veterans Coalition listen during a meeting on Tuesday, May 24, 2022, at the Beltrami County Administration Building in Bemidji.
Maggi Fellerman / Bemidji Pioneer

Related Topics: VETERANS
Maggi is a reporter at the Bemidji Pioneer focusing on outdoor and human interest stories. Raised in Aitkin, Minnesota, Maggi is a graduate of Bemidji State University's class of 2022 with a degree in Mass Communication.
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