Bexar County officials gathered near Fort Sam Houston on Monday to celebrate the opening of its new Military and Veterans Service Center.
The newly created office’s goal will be to reach not only veterans but also service members who are within six months of being discharged, according to Commissioner Kevin Wolff, who spearheaded the project as the county court’s veterans liaison.
“We start too late,” Wolff said. “We want to make contact with them before they transition out.”
Around 4,000 service members in the county leave the military every year.
Wolff said the county has more than doubled its investment in veterans services by creating the office. It has spent around $350,000 in past years on its Veterans Service Office. Commissioners budgeted more than $900,000 for the expanded center, as well as $700,000 in capital investments.
The VSO focused on helping veterans with disability claims, according to Wolff. The new center also will have employees — called military service officers — that help outgoing service members look for jobs and education opportunities in the area.
“It’s not the military’s job to teach you how to be a civilian again,” Wolff said. “That’s our job.”
The county partnered with the North San Antonio Chamber of Commerce to pair service members and their families with employers and job training for free.
“Employers out there, they are desperate for good employees,” Wolff said. “They would love to be able to tap into the experience that military veterans have.”
Three service officers have already been working for the county’s new venture for about six months, including one inside the gates of Fort Sam, Wolff said. The county expects to hire three more by the end of the year.
Brig. General Laura L. Lenderman, commander of Joint Base San Antonio, said the center will help service members adapt to a “new normal.”
“This vital support is so critical as we begin that transition to a life out of uniform,” she said.
Officials hope to expand the services into Randolph and Lackland within the next year-and-a-half. Wolff said the center will eventually have between 20 and 25 employees.
On Friday, the court tapped Karen Rolirad, who had been deputy director of the city’s Office of Military and Veteran Affairs, to lead the center.
Article originally published by San Antonio Express-News – Dylan McGuinness