Veteran and Emergency Personnel Support Program Launches in Millbrook

Photo Karen Graham.
Bruce Cossar of Norwood joined the Millbrook presentation and showed some of his miniature military figures used in tabletop military strategy games. Games are often based on historical accuracy and test alternate strategies for changes in battle outcomes. Cossar also serves at the Gamesmaster at military game strategy conferences.

This month, the Millbrook Legion begins to host monthly meetings for a veterans support group called Operation VetBuild. 

The organization is based on the UK initiative that was established to provide information, advice and guidance to support veterans of the armed forces to help them in their transition back to civilian life and the challenges that presents.  Through individual support, shared experiences and common culture, the organization is a touch point for referral to advice and support whether it relates to administrative issues such as paperwork for benefits claims or professional emotional support.

This Canadian version was launched in 2019 helping veterans heal through hobby and social support. It is coordinated through the Royal Canadian Legion OSI Special Section and is hosted in Legion Branches across Canada.

Photo Karen Graham.
Vetbuild miniatures for military games.

The initiative incorporates plastic scale model and tabletop game building as a means of assisting veterans alleviate the symptoms commonly associated with OSIs and PTSD, or transition to civilian life after service.

The hobby activity conducted in a social atmosphere and allows veterans the opportunity to meet other veterans in their area while working through their projects to provide mutual support and comradeship. This is a peer support program first and model building is simply the medium. In Millbrook, the activities will also include table top war strategy gaming.  These activities are helpful, as keeping hands busy through these activities seems to allow easier conversation about potentially challenging subjects.

The organization’s local team leader Jason Salo was on hand last month to introduce the program in Millbrook. A veteran himself, he relocated to Cavan two years ago.  He will lead the local group which will meet on the second Monday of each month from 6:30 to 9:30 at the Millbrook Legion.

Despite its name, the program is not just available to veterans. The support is potentially helpful to all emergency service personnel, including fire fighters, paramedics and police officers. As Salo explained, these personnel all deploy domestically each time they put on their uniforms.  Members of these groups also share the same organization culture and experiences of facing dangerous situations where colleagues support is crucial.  That tight bond is difficult to replicate outside these organizations, and the monthly meetings are designed to provide an opportunity to meet and share the kind of banter that is unique to emergency and military personnel.

Another common trait in these service people is a reluctance to seek help.  There is a stigma around expressions of vulnerability which the group seeks to address. Working closely with the Department of National Defense and Veterans Affairs Canada will help the organization advocate effectively for support for veterans and their families.

Jason Salo is a retired reservist and military policeman who is delighted to have the chance to meet with others who share his background.  Bringing along his son Cohen has made the experience even more personal, as it builds a deeper mutual understanding as they listen to the stories of other members in the meetings.  He is very pleased with this initiative and excited with the overwhelming support from the Legion Dominion and Provincial Commands along with the incredible support of the model building community. He looks forward to growing and cultivating new friendships as the program develops.  KG

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