Round Rock - Pflugerville - Hutto Edition | November 2020

Behind the uniform

being provided to the veterans in our community.” Care in crisis Alongside the nancial implica- tions of the pandemic, heightened attention has been placed on the men- tal health of area veterans. Wade said the nature of VFWs—and a key reason behind their founding— is to provide that sense of commu- nity and peer support. For those with anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder or other conditions, Wade said, social isolation is strongly discouraged. However, given that the pandemic requires social distancing, Wade said that providing support has proven all the more dicult. “One of the things when it comes to self-care and identifying the issue of mental health is trying not to isolate,” Wade said. “And then, once you’re kind of forced into a situation where you have to isolate, it tends to exac- erbate some of those problems and symptoms.” Post 447 has around 435 members, Swayne said. Since reopening the facility, roughly 25 people have come to the post each day. As compared to March, when more than 100 veterans visited the post daily, that represents an approximate 75% decline in daily social interactions among members, Swayne said. “We’ve kind of lost our contact [with some members] because we just don’t have those numbers of peo- ple coming in here on a regular basis,” Swayne said. “They’re not able to get out, and I’m sure some of them are too scared to go anywhere.” Sherry Golden, director of the Wil- liamson County Veterans Services Department—which called all of the county’s veterans in the spring—said the impetus behind those calls was an interest in veterans’ personal safety. However, through the conversations, Golden said, the focus shifted toward the anxieties veterans had regarding the pandemic. “They were very scared about what was going on,” Golden said. She said many area centers have pivoted to virtual and phone vis- its only, with limited appointments available. “I reminded [veterans]: ‘Please reach out to your doctors; please call the vet center; call the [Veteran Aairs] medical centers’—anyone that can help them get to that resource of mental health,” Golden said. But it’s very, very limited.”

Among the nearly 87,000 veterans who live in Travis and Williamson counties, approximately 12,000 call Round Rock, Pugerville and Hutto home. Here is a look at the percent populations of veterans living in Round Rock, Pugerville and Hutto, and their corresponding population demographics.

ROUND ROCK

PFLUGERVILLE

HUTTO 10%

6.9%

7.2%

Veteran population: 6,781

Veteran population: 3,572

Veteran population: 1,635

3,107 Men

465 Women

1,478 Men

157 Women

6,466 Men

315 Women

AGE

AGE

AGE

SOURCES: U.S. CENSUS BUREAU AMERICAN COMMUNITY SURVEY 2018 5YEAR ESTIMATES AND AMERICAN COMMUNITY SURVEY 2019 1YEAR ESTIMATES COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

ower drives, which are scheduled around Memorial Day and Veterans Day. Now that his post is relying solely on donations, Wade said his concern with the lack of funding is primarily its eect on the number of veterans the post can nancially assist. The American Legion George Johns Post 447, a veteran organization in Round Rock, derives approximately 40% of its funding from its canteen, Manager Steanie Bartlett said. When bars reopened at reduced capacity May 22, Bartlett said it felt like the rst breath she had taken in two months’ time. Then, June 26 came, and bars were forced to close once more. The post’s initial closure in March was dicult, Bartlett said; its second was devastating. “We had to let our patrons and veterans know, which was really hard because they depend on us to

be able to have that support daily at the American Legion,” Bartlett said. “They’re all going through dierent trials and tribulations in their lives, and it’s just good for them to be able to connect with each other.” Under Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission regulations, veteran posts are classied as bars regardless of whether they derive 51% or more of their funding from alcohol sales. Ultimately, Bartlett said, her post vol- untarily gave up its TABC license so it could reopen more quickly for its patrons. But because the post usually earns more than $100,000 each year through canteen sales, Bartlett said, the loss was signicant. “We get anywhere from500 to 1,500 requests for veterans’ assistance a month,” said Don Swayne, Post 447’s nance ocer. “There are several vet- eran organizations that have just been closed. That means there’s no help

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Robert Hernandez Memorial Post 9078, a Veterans of Foreign Wars organization. “Due to the restrictions that were put in place initially and not being able to raise those funds, it kind of puts a lid on how much we can actu- ally do to assist our veterans in our Four nonprots serve nearly 12,000 veterans in Round Rock, Pugerville and Hutto, according to 2018 and 2019 U.S. Census Bureau data. Wade said these nonprots’ rev- enue often come through fund- raising events, donations or by operating a canteen—a store that sells food or drinks at a military establish- ment. Wade said his VFW post lacked a canteen and relied instead on fund- raising initiatives, such as its poppy community,” Wade said. Financial shortcomings

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