By MATT ROBERTS
Pioneer Managing Editor
EVANSTON — Many impassioned residents expressed their concern over the possible loss of the county’s veteran service officer position at a meeting of the Uinta County Veterans’ Board April 4 at the county courthouse.
While many opinions were voiced, There wasn’t a single one suggesting the VSO post be eliminated.
Controversy surrounding what would become of the position began after Nellie Richins, the current VSO, announced she would resign, effective May 31. That announcement came on the heels of a mandated restructuring of certification requirements for the position from the federal government.
“Most of you are here with concerns as far as the VSO position goes,” board chairman Josh Buhmann told the gathering when the meeting commenced, “and what’s going to happen. I can’t promise you I’m going to have all the answers tonight, but we’ll do the best we can.”
Joe Don Raymer was he first veteran to speak. Raymer served three tours in Vietnam. He said in the 2 1/2 years he has lived in Uinta County, Richins had done more for him in obtaining help for treating his disability than he ever received while living in Santa Fe, N.M. He also expressed concern that the Uinta County VSO position might be consolidated with the Sweetwater County office, which would be harmful to local veterans getting the help they need.
“I can tell you stories about a bunch of these folks that I’ve talked to in private,” Raymer said, “…but [Richins has] literally helped save my life. That was our question to the VSO operators out of Green River [at an earlier Uinta County Commission meeting]…Are you all going to guarantee that our new veteran service officer is going to have a cell phone supplied by the county, and they will answer it 24/7, to answer our questions or take care of our needs?”
Raymer asserted Richins, who was not present at the meeting, regularly worked 60 to 80 hours weekly for “minimal pay” to complete her duties.
“She’s saved my life numerous times,” he added, noting he has struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder, “because there have been times when I’ve had to have someone to talk to, and if there wouldn’t have been, then sarge here would have gotten a phone call to come and round up the body in the body bag.”
Buhmann responded that, while the board agreed with Raymer’s sentiment, they could not make promises about how the VSO position will evolve in the coming months.
For the complete article see the 04-19-2013 issue.
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