Wildcat Reserve team assists Soldiers in need of assistance
February 2, 2011
FORT JACKSON, S.C. - She had two stable jobs, bought a new car and everything seemed to be going well for one Army Reserve Soldier -- for a brief moment.
Shortly afterwards, she lost one job, the other cut back on her hours and soon found herself buried in bills and a few months later she was served with an eviction notice.
She almost lost it all until she made a decision that changed her life. A simple phone call asking for help and advice changed a bad situation into something better.
That decision made its way to the 81st Regional Support Command and Marlo Walker, a recovery care coordinator with of the Army Reserve Warrior and Family Assistance Center team here.
Within an hour, Watkins was on the phone with the Soldier to figure out a possible solution and to her landlord to stop the eviction and saving unneeded stress for a young warrior.
Nearly hidden in a sea of cubicles at the "Wildcat" lair, Walker and her counterpart Chris Rhett work as advocates for Soldier and supports recovering service members, wounded and injured Army Reserve warriors and their family members or designated representatives by ensuring non-medical needs are met through all the phases of the continuum of care.
Rhett said the program is important because it bridges the gap between the Army Reserve family and the large amount of resources out there to assist them.
"One thing we don't need our Soldiers doing is not asking someone for help," he said. "It's difficult for us, because we are right here for them, and most of the time the Soldiers and units don't even know our services exist."
Walker said the program provides assistance in navigating federal and state systems and helps connect Soldiers and families with the necessary financial, educational, employment, legal and medical resources.
Federal programs, including healthcare, retirement and disability compensation, transition assistance, VA adaptive housing and vehicle assistance, VA education and training, VA vocational rehabilitation and employment, and certain Department of Labor programs, can go unnoticed to the average Army Reserve family, she said.
Rhett said his job gives him the satisfaction of assisting Soldiers who, for whatever reason, are not able to help themselves.
"I am a retiree and know firsthand the difficulties in navigating the transition to civilian life," Rhett said. "Our warrior citizens are unique serving a dual role and face the difficulties in every aspect of life. It feels good to know I am able to help Soldiers through this process."
Walker said being able work Soldiers and families on a daily basis is what she lives for and brings total satisfaction to her hard work.
"These Soldiers have put their lives on the line to serve our country, she said. "They need to know that they are appreciated, and someone is there to help them though their time of need. Nothing feels better then knowing that I am making a difference in a soldiers and his family's life."
As Walker worked with the landlord to stop the eviction and help with simple financial needs for the Soldier, she wanted to ensure this was not a quick fix or solution but rather assistance to get the Soldier on the right path for success.
"I wanted her to know it was her responsibility to do the right thing," she said after talking with local veterans' groups in the area to help the Soldier. "The Army takes care of its own.
Sometimes our young Soldiers wait until it's too late to recover. Luckily, she didn't wait until all was lost."
Both Rhett and Walker said Soldiers must realize they are not alone.
"We have programs that can make sure our soldiers and their families' needs are met," Walker said. "Soldiers and their families have to realize they are not alone in this time of need. Knowing that one needs help is strength not a weakness."
Rhett said Army Reserve families need to overcome their fear of asking for help when it is needed and said unless it is known that help is needed, there is no way it can be provided.
"There is no shame in asking for help, and the shame comes from neglecting help that is here," he said. "With a little persistence and a lot of patience, anything can be overcome," he said.