Nick Hedrick - Journal Review firstname.lastname@example.org
More than 70 years later, Bill Priest still has the picture he took with famed combat correspondent Ernie Pyle aboard a ship in World War II.
Priest, who served in the Marines, was waiting to get his eyes checked Thursday at the annual Veterans Expo sponsored by American Legion Byron Cox Post #72.
Veterans organizations and representatives from local nursing homes and businesses were on hand to help retired military personnel and their families apply for benefits and learn about community programs.
The event provides a “cornucopia of information” for the veterans, said Mike Spencer, a vice commander for Post #72. It’s also a popular place to get a flu shot, which was provided this year by Walgreens.
For Fred Humphreys and Linn Hutchison, it’s a chance to catch up with each other’s lives. They served together in the same National Guard unit during the 1960s and 70s. The unit was never deployed overseas.
“We were in at the heat of the Vietnam War,” Humphreys said.
As the federal government provides opportunities for more veterans to file claims, service officers are busy helping Vietnam veterans seek compensation for diseases related to exposure to Agent Orange and other combat conditions.
The American Legion Department of Indiana Services Office represents veterans during the claims process with the Veterans Administration.
“If it’s not granted and it’s denied, we can help them with the appeal process,” said department service officer John Hickey.
Hickey said some veterans are waiting three to seven years before their appeal is handled. The VA is now approving benefits within a few months, down from two years in an earlier backlog.
Former military personnel can also find help from Disabled American Veterans. A 26-year-old Afghanistan veteran who manned an M-16 rifle in combat recently approached the group for help requesting hearing aids.
“We don’t get them benefits, we just help them apply for them,” said member Gary Bell.
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