A new non­profit orga­ni­zation seeks to connect vet­erans with resources to find trans­portation, jobs, and support groups in Hillsdale County. 

Hillsdale County Vet­erans Coalition’s mission is to “embrace, empower, and enrich the lives of mil­itary vet­erans within our com­munity,” according to Melinda Eggleston, program director of the Hillsdale County Com­munity Foundation.

Eggleston said the orga­ni­zation hopes to “connect Hillsdale County service members, vet­erans, and their fam­ilies with resources to enhance overall wellness and enrich their lives.” 

Michigan Vet­erans Affairs Agency, the Hillsdale County Dis­trict Court, and American Legion Post 53 formed the group in August 2021 to achieve these goals, Eggleston said.

Eggleston said the Hillsdale County Vet­erans Coalition has six sub­groups that have begun working on action plans in the areas of trans­portation, justice, helping service members tran­sition to normal life, resiliency, women vet­erans, and outreach. 

Corey Murray, the Legion’s finance officer and coalition chairman, expanded on each of these sub­groups. He said that members in the trans­portation work­group actively work to bring better trans­portation options to rural vet­erans, while the tran­si­tioning service member work­force is cre­ating a new program to help vet­erans better rein­te­grate them­selves back into society fol­lowing dis­charge, according to Murray. 

Murray said the resiliency work­group focuses on veteran suicide pre­vention, behav­ioral health, and the overall well­being of local vet­erans. Members of the women vet­erans work­group help cul­tivate cama­raderie, and the out­reach work­group is in charge of planning and adver­tising resource fairs for veterans.

Murray said there is room for expansion as leaders look to establish a spouses and family sub­group to help loved ones of vet­erans under­stand Post Trau­matic Stress Dis­order and how to help during dif­ficult times. The orga­ni­zation hopes to reach more local vet­erans by cre­ating these dif­ferent subgroups. 

Murray explained spe­cific achieve­ments of the Vet­erans Coalition. The group recently secured a $30,000 grant to assist 2B Dis­trict Court in “expanding their vet­erans track pro­bation program.” 

Alongside American Legion Post 53, the coalition pro­vides mil­itary honors at vet­erans’ funerals through its Honor Guard, Murray said.

“We pay final respects to a fellow brother or sister by pre­senting this nation’s colors, ren­dering a 21-gun salute and playing taps,” Murray said.

The Hillsdale County Vet­erans Coalition looks forward to pos­si­bil­ities for the future, according to Murray.

“Really, the pos­si­bil­ities are endless as to what we can do if we work together. To see the efforts going into this coalition by a variety of com­munity partners, leaders, vet­erans– it’s just truly incredible,” Murray said.