Seguin resident Richard Merz left the American Legion Post 245 on Saturday with pamphlets in his hands and new information about veteran benefits.
Merz, who retired from the Navy in 2006 as an E-6, was one of many veterans who turned out for the second Guadalupe County Veterans Resource Fair hosted by Guadalupe County Veterans Services, Seguin Veterans Ministry and American Legion.
“The fair was good,” Merz said. “I got a bunch of good information from it.”
More than 40 organizations turned out for the fair, offering veterans the chance to learn about a variety of benefits and services, said Marisela Gonzales, director of Guadalupe County Veterans Services.
“A lot of times it’s hard for veterans to go out to these organizations, so bringing them to the community is a way for us to give that access to our veterans,” she said.
Some of the organizations that came out included T-Mobile, Disabled American Veterans (DAV) and the Texas Veterans Commission, among others. New to the event this year was Project MEND, who offers free medical equipment regardless of discharge, Assistant Guadalupe County Veteran Service Officer Michael Hernandez said.
“All you need is a DD-214 and a prescription,” he said. “You can send it to them and they can fulfill it free of charge. It’s been somewhat of a success.”
Merz said he came out to try to get information about re-evaluation for VA benefits, but also stopped by other booths to learn about the information they offered.
“I talked to the SA Vets, VA and got information about Hazelwood,” he said. “It was a great event.”
One of the booths he talked to was Texas State University’s Veterans Affairs Office, who gave him information about the Hazelwood Act, which provides tuition exemption, and education benefits.
Anson Davis, a staff member with the Texas State University’s Veteran Affairs office, said the response from those who stopped by had been positive.
“What I’ve seen is a number of people who needed extra information about how to use benefits such as Hazelwood and the GI bill,” he said.
Davis, who is a veteran himself, said outreach like Saturday’s event is important because veterans may not have received the right information coming out of service.
“I always do outreach in the local communities to make sure that other people can get the information that I missed when I exited service,” he said.
There are around 22,000 veterans in the area, according to Deacon Victor Garcia from Seguin Veterans Ministry. This event gave those veterans the opportunity to have a one-stop-shop for their needs, he said. Additionally, it allowed the community an opportunity to get involved and find ways to help the veterans, he said.
“The veterans have served. The families have served. Now let’s figure out how we as a community can honor them and help them with their issues and their needs,” he said.
Garcia said he was appreciative of the community coming out to help, and hoped veterans took away new information.
“I hope most people took away the fact that there are agencies and organizations out there that want to help veterans and their families,” he said. “I think for the veterans this has been real positive. They like this and are real appreciative what we’re trying to do.”
Steffanie Agnew is a staff writer for the Seguin Gazette. She can be contacted by e-mail at email@example.com.