The seventh annual Gathering of Warriors Veterans Summit hosted by the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, Native Wellness Institute, and VA Office of Tribal Government Relations, held July 11-12, 2019, brought together hundreds of individuals from different communities at the Uyxat Powwow Grounds in Grande Ronde, Oregon.
The event honored those who served and gave Veterans, families, and community members the opportunity to connect with one another and learn about Veteran-related resources and programs.
Guest speaker Johnathan Courtney, Army combat Veteran, shared his story of healing and how he struggled to find himself when he came home from the Iraq War. He said that if it wasn’t for the help of his wife Emily, he wouldn’t be where he is today. With her help and support he was able to connect with caring providers within VA and a support network with community organizations.
“It starts with Vets helping Vets and family care,” said Courtney, now Chairman of the Health and Wellness Committee for the State of Oregon Veterans of Foreign Wars and a member of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs. He hopes that by sharing his story of healing with fellow Veterans that it will encourage them or someone they know to reach out for help if they need it and learn about resources available. “Many Veterans don’t reach out for support and we are trying to change that here,” he said.
Other guest speakers, representing different tribes and organizations, shared their stories of healing over the two-day period, including Gold Star families who were given a special honor at the event. Gold Star families are relatives of service members who have fallen during a conflict.
VA staff members participated in a panel discussion to help answer questions and share information about VA services. VA Portland Health Care System panelist members included Sarah Suniga, Women Veterans Program Manager, Ph.D., and Valdez Bravo, Administrative Director for Primary Care Division. Other panelist members included Kurtis Harris, Assistant Coach Public Contact Team for the VA Portland Regional Office; Jeffrey Applegate, Assistant Director of Willamette National Cemetery; and Kelly Fitzpatrick, Oregon State Department of Veterans Affairs Director.
Additionally, VA Portland Health Care System staff from the My HealtheVet Program and Suicide Prevention team tabled at the event.
“It’s a great honor to connect with Veterans in this community,” said Terry Bentley, Tribal Government Relations Specialist for VA Office of Tribal Relations and member of the Karuk Tribe of California. Bentley has participated in this event since it first started seven years ago. She said she feels privileged to partner with tribal and community organizations to make it all come together and encourages anyone who served in the military or who knows someone who served in the military to participate next year.
“This event is about helping our Veterans and encouraging them to come forward to see what’s available,” said Reyn Leno, Marine Corps Vietnam Veteran, member of Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, and past chairman of the Oregon Department of Veteran’s Affairs Advisory Committee. “Even if we help just one Veteran during this event I think that in itself is a success.”
For information about next year’s event please contact Terry Bentley at 541-440-1271 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
If you are a Veteran interested in learning about VA services, please contact us:
|VA Crisis Line||800-273-8255 Press 1|
|VA Health Care Benefits or Application Questions||877-222-8387|
|Agent Orange Help Line||800-749-8387 Press 3|
|Billing||866-400-1238 Press 2|
|Benefits (Claim status, pension, disability, education, home loan, survivor assistance, compensation)||800-827-1000|
|Education and GI Bill Benefits||888-442-4551|
|Employment (Helps Veterans and transitioning military service members find federal careers)||855-824-8387|
|Homeless Veterans (Veterans who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless)||877-424-3838 (24-hour hotline for homeless vets)|
|Home Loan Program||877-827-3702|
|Insurance and TSGLI/SGLI||800-419-1473|
|Intimate Partner Violence (Call to Safety 24/7 Crisis Line)||888-235-5333|
|MISSION Act General Information||503-220-8262 Press 6|
|Office of Tribal Government Relations (The OTGR team works to strengthen and build closer relations between the VA, tribal governments and other key federal, state, private and non-profit partners in an effort to effectively and respectfully serve Veterans across Indian Country)||202-461-7400 – DC
541-440-1271 – Regional Representative from OR
|Women Veterans Call Center||855-829-6636 (Call or text)|
|Vet Center Call Center (Confidential call center for combat Veterans and families to talk about military experience or any other issues facing in readjustment to civilian life)||877-927-8387|
|My HealtheVet (Send secure messages to your provider, refill prescriptions, keep track of appointments, and download your health records)||877-327-0022 (National helpdesk)|
Ruth Zhang is a public affairs specialist at the VA Portland Health Care System