Vets applaud benefits of fair
Local Veterans discuss benefits with representatives from the Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs.

ANNISTON ARMY DEPOT, Ala. - Hundreds of local Veterans and their families took advantage of the depot's 2nd Annual Veterans Supermarket of Benefits Fair on Sept. 10 at the Anniston City Meeting Center.

The event was a one-stop shop for Veterans as event coordinators brought in about 40 organizations and agencies that were on hand from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. with information about health benefits, job opportunities and other services.

"If a Veteran can benefit from it, it's here," said depot outreach coordinator Jeni Cline.

Cline said there are an estimated 22,000 Veterans living in and around Calhoun County. About 1,500 of those Veterans work at Anniston Army Depot. She said last year's inaugural event pulled in more than 1,000 attendees. This year's event saw fewer than 500.

One of those attendees was Arthur Lynch, a Veteran of the Gulf War. He retired from the U.S. Army in 1995 and has since remembered the toll-free number to the Veterans Affairs benefits hotline. Lynch said he'll soon forget that telephone number because of something "very beneficial" he discovered at the depot's benefits fair-the My eBenefits Web portal, ebenefits.va.gov.

"It's the best thing they've come up with. It's a Web site where we can keep up with the progress and status of our benefits," said Lynch. "I know that 1-800 number by heart. Now I can forget it because this Web site will be easier and quicker."

James Barnett, a Vietnam Veteran, said the fair is nothing less than helpful. He served on active duty in the Air Force and then moved to the Army National Guard before working at the depot from 1984 to 1993 under the Vietnam Era Veterans' Readjustment Assistance Act.

"This event is helping a lot. It's good to get that face-to-face," said Barnett. "I'm thankful they have something like this."

Though it was easy to see that most attendees at the fair were Veterans, some of them were the family members of Veterans. Tawanda Sorrell of Weaver said her mother told her about the event. Sorrell is not a Veteran, but her father served in the Army. She said she didn't expect to receive as much valuable information as she did and that she was glad she went around to all the vendors.

"I picked up packets from the RMC booth and got information on Army employment opportunities," she said.

Alexandria residents Robert and Bonita Moreau said the depot's benefits fair saved them from driving two hours to a similar event scheduled in Huntsville.

They also said that rescheduling doctors' appointments for their family from Sept. 10 to another day in order to attend Anniston's benefits fair was well worth the effort.

"This event answered the questions that I had," said Robert Moreau, who served with both the U.S. Marine Corps and the Army National Guard. "And it's local."

"Everyone here was so welcoming," said Bonita Moreau.

Page last updated Thu September 16th, 2010 at 12:05