Union County honors its veterans, state officials still working to improve military to civilian transition

Arkansas News

EL DORADO, Ar. (11/11/19) The American VFW hosted their annual event to honor Veterans in Union County today in front of the courthouse.

Senator Trent Garner, a United States Army Veteran, was one of the guest speakers.

“It’s a great event,” Senator Garner said. “You have veterans, their families and people who like veterans to show their support and say thank you to those who served us.”

Garner said it’s his mission to make sure veterans aren’t remembered just today but everyday. Other service members that served in other military branches agree.

“When you see a veteran just thank them for what they’ve done,” United States Air Force Veteran and El Dorado Police Department, Lieutenant Christopher Lutman said.

“There’s somebody who is wearing full body armor that’s in a trench somewhere with night vision goggles trying to watch a perimeter.”

Besides offering words of support, Senator Garner believes legislative and community action can show appreciation to our veterans.

There are many challenges service members face after completing their military duties. The transition from the military to civilian life can be tough.

Not a day goes by that Lieutenant Christopher Lutman doesn’t reflect on his service in the U.S. Air Force.

“It was just really neat all of the doors that opened up through that unit there,” he said.

Lieutenant Lutman enlisted in the military straight out of high school to follow in his father’s footsteps. He started off as a security police officer before being selected to serve as an Air Force Honor Guard, representing Airmen to the world.

When he completed that role, he traveled to Saudi Arabia at the end of the Persian Gulf War and became a security for the planes.

All of the experience he had accumulated, prepared him for his career in law enforcement. For him, the transition to civilian work wasn’t so complicated.

“That transition was fairly easy for me,” Lieutenant Lutman said. “For others it may be difficult depending on the circumstances they experienced in the military.”

Senator Garner believes there are plenty of resources for anyone transitioning from the military back to normal life.

“There’s all kind of job programs,” he said. Here in the state of Arkansas we put if you’re a national guard member, you get certain kind of tuition absolutely free which means you can go to college free and get you an education.”

When it comes to mental health resources, there’s still a long way to go.

“What’s not acceptable is the number of suicides on a daily basis,” Lieutenant Lutman said.

Senator Garner agreed and said there’s still work that needs to be done. The suicide rate among veterans in Arkansas is three times the national average.

Garner and other state officials said they are working to get adequate funding and useful resources. He believes connecting veterans to resources and benefits is the best service we can provide to them.

For more information about services in Union County, visit American Legion or Union County Veteran Services.

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