Supporting Today’s Veterans: Q&A Ahead of Virtual Veterans Day Event

Written by Joe Armstrong, Content Specialist, Marketing, Downtown Main Library

This Veterans Day the Cincinnati & Hamilton County Public Library is hosting a virtual event: Supporting Today’s Veterans, opens a new window. The event highlights the experience of veterans returning from active duty and shares resources available to veterans and their families through a panel discussion:

  • Luke Coffey and Curtis Grace are the hosts of the Panjwai Podcast, opens a new window, a podcast documenting the combat experiences of veterans who served in Panjwai District of Kandahar, Afghanistan.
  • Scott Robinson is the director of Military and Veteran Services at Easterseals Serving Greater Cincinnati, opens a new window, focusing on assisting veterans with employment services and finding and securing meaningful jobs for veterans returning to civilian life.
  • Kimberly Thomas is a veteran recruiter at Talbert House, opens a new window. As part of the Supportive Services for Veterans Families program, she assists veterans and families with a veteran with case management services, temporary financial assistance, and connections to resources and services.

Learn More About Our Panelists

Ahead of the event all the panelists shared more about themselves and how to better connect with veterans in your family and community:

Joe Armstrong (CHPL): What is the Panjwai Podcast? Why did you decide to start it?

CG (Panjwai Podcast): The Panjwai Podcast, opens a new window is an interview-based podcast series that seeks to document the human experience of combat in the Panjwai District of Afghanistan. It is our hope that a genuine, authentic retelling of the experience can occur while memories are fresh and the emotions of the experience can be accurately portrayed. It started as an effort to document our personal 2012 deployment and quickly evolved to cover the experiences of others who served in the Panjwai district. We started it because we felt our own memories fading and wanted to preserve that experience for ourselves, our families, and generations to follow.

LC (Panjwai Podcast): For me, the Panjwai Podcast, opens a new window serves two functions. The first is a thorough documentation of the experiences of the men and women who served in the Panjwai District of Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, in order to best preserve and honor the sacrifices made there. The second is to convey to a large audience of friends, family, and fellow veterans a distinctly human, and honest, retelling of the realities of war. Both these, I feel, the Panjwai Podcast has done a fine job of. And we've been lucky to do so only through the phenomenal guests we've been fortunate enough to interview.

JA: What have you discovered about yourself through these conversations with each other and your guests on the Panjwai Podcast?

CG (Panjwai Podcast): Personally, I have discovered that the experience left more of a mark than I was previously aware of. It has also helped me understand our experience more in the context of the entire war in Afghanistan and Iraq. To hear others tell their experiences, and particularly to hear those who had experiences in other areas of the war, highlights how unique and terrifying our experience was. I have also discovered a high degree of interest in hearing these stories, not only from veterans, but from their families, friends, and significant others. And those who genuinely wish to understand what it is we did for 20 years in Afghanistan.

LC (Panjwai Podcast): The largest discovery that I have made on an individual level over the course of the podcast is that my experiences in Panjwai have affected me in ways that I was never able to fully conceptualize or articulate before. In so many ways the podcast and our conversations have served as therapeutic releases for me, and have allowed me to better understand the impact that our brief time spent in such a violent place has made on me as a person. I am thankful for that.

JA: Tell us about Talbert House and Easterseals and the resources available to veterans and their families.

KT (Talbert House): Talbert House empowers children, adults, and families to live healthy, safe, and productive lives. Operating within five service lines — Addictions, Community Care, Court and Corrections, Housing, and Mental Health — Talbert House serves over 26,000 clients face to face and an additional 134,000 through prevention services throughout Southwest Ohio. Voted one of the area’s Top Work Places in 2021, Talbert House provides services and career opportunities to veterans. I am the veteran recruiter within the Talbert House agency and I assist veterans and their families gain employment opportunities with Talbert House or other companies.

SR (Easterseals): Since opening our doors in 2012, we have served over 3,500 veterans in the Greater Cincinnati area. We focus mainly on employment services, finding and securing meaningful jobs for our veterans. My team is veterans serving veterans; my staff has 60 years of cumulative active-duty service. We’ve all been deployed and have VA disabilities, so we all have walked the walk of the transitioning veteran of today. We serve military, veterans (to include guard and reserves), and their family members, no matter the category of their military discharge. We are passionate about helping those in the greatest need, such as homeless veterans, those dealing with or recovering from addiction, and those transitioning from incarceration back into the community. We serve anyone who raised their right hand to serve our country.

JA: What are the first steps a veteran or their family can take to access resources?

KT (Talbert House): Veterans and their families can contact our Supportive Services for Veteran Families (S.S.V.F.) at 513-381-7233 to gain access to all excellent services provided by Talbert House. In addition, our 24-hour hotline, 513-281-VETS (8387), is always available to veterans in need of resources.

SR (Easterseals): There are a number of ways to connect to resources: calling United Way’s 211 hotline, contacting Easterseals directly at 513-240-6897 or vetsinfo@eastersealsgc.org, opens a new window, or if someone is in crisis, calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

JA: As folks are getting together for Veterans Day, how can veterans, their families, and the community start meaningful conversations about veterans and their experiences returning to civilian life?

KT (Talbert House): As the country pauses to honor those who served in the U.S. military, we can connect to veterans and ask them meaningful questions and listen to and learn from the responses. Questions like: “What branch of the military did you serve?” “Is there a reason you chose that branch?” “What inspired you to join?” “What was the most beautiful country/city/place you experienced while in the service?” “Do you have a favorite story of meeting someone from that country?” Working in the veteran community, I learned veterans enjoy sharing their service experience with civilians. I love hearing the stories about what inspired them to join.

SR (Easterseals): Understanding and discussing these factors which may play a part in the veteran’s life:

  • Relating to people who do not know or understand what military personnel has experienced (and many civilians don't know that they don't know!).
  • Reconnecting with family and re-establishing a role in the family.
  • Joining or creating a community.
  • Preparing to enter the workforce.
  • Returning to a job.
  • Creating structure.
  • Adjusting to providing basic necessities (e.g., food, clothing, housing)
  • Adjusting to a different pace of life and work.
  • Establishing services.

JA: What are you currently reading/watching/listening to?

CG (Panjwai Podcast): I am currently reading a lot of master’s level textbooks and watching a lot of pre-recorded lectures through my MBA program. But when I get a chance, I am working my way through Imperial Hubris, opens a new window, written by an anonymous CIA analyst about why the war on terror, as it was conducted, was never winnable. It is particularly relevant now.

LC (Panjwai Podcast): I'm currently reading a beautiful book by William deBuys, opens a new window. It is his most recent release titled The Trail to Kanjiroba: Rediscovering Earth in an Age of Loss. I love to read, and it is a daily commitment in my life. This book is some of the finest and timeliest writing I've read in a long while. I'll simply offer a quote from a passage that I found to be exhilarating in its hope. It follows a passage where deBuys reflects on a photograph he took of a highly eroded and abused landscape in Arizona. It said that defending the beauty of the world was a calling that would never go silent. And it said that to serve such a calling would produce something that all of us seek, which is meaning, durable and real.

SR (Easterseals): I’m really enjoying LinkedIn Learning, opens a new window, which is provided for free through the Library! They have so many resources on a variety of subjects which keeps me growing new and different skills.

JA: What are you excited to share at the event?

LC (Panjwai Podcast): I am most excited to share the success stories! There is a narrative in our culture and society that veterans, and especially combat veterans, are inherently broken. That each of us is incapable of continuing to be contributing, functioning members of society because we were so affected by war. In reality, this is demonstrably wrong. Many of our guests have continued on in life to lead fulfilling, purposeful, and truly invigorating lives that are entirely separate from their military service. Combat is just a part of who a veteran is, it isn't the only thing a veteran is.

SR (Easterseals): Sharing resources with the community and getting the word out there for all who may need these resources

KT (Talbert House): I am excited to talk about the opportunities we have to employ and serve veterans across the agency.

CG (Panjwai Podcast): I am excited to share my journey, and hope that it serves as an example to other veterans as to how they can find a life and purpose outside of the military. I am excited to share our experiences of interviewing the wonderful guests on the podcast, as well and the connections and experiences generated as a result of it.

Discover Library Resources for Veterans

Watch the video below to find out more about everyday resources designed to assist veterans, both online and at our 41 library locations.

Join the discussion this Veterans Day from 7-8 p.m. by registering for this virtual event: Supporting Today’s Veterans, opens a new window.

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