Utah Veterans Experience Triumphs, Hardships

Cover of a booklet distributed to World War I veterans.

2012 marks the 50th anniversary of the start of the Vietnam War. Thousands of Utah men and women joined forces with more than two million Americans from across the country to help fight the war which lasted more than a decade. On Sunday a service was held to honor Utah’s service men and women at the State Capitol. Over one hundred Vietnam veterans were personally thanked for their service over the weekend at the Utah State Capitol.

Bob Fillmore of West Valley attended the ceremony with of his two friends who also served, and he says it’s nice to be recognized.

“I was 17 years old when I went in. I was a volunteer. And, three years in the Army. Got wounded in '67. But I am very very proud to be here.” 

Fillmore says going into the military is one of the best things he’s ever done, and he’s still reaping the benefits today.

“I utilized the GI Bill, I went to college. Because I am a Purple Heart recipient I get some VA benefits for medical. And the military just squared me away and made a man out of me. It has been very, very important in my life.”

But Terry Schow, Executive Director of the Utah Department of Veterans Affairs knows not every Utah veteran's story is like Fillmore’s.

“Utah is below the national average percentage in people who are receiving VA compensation, and below the national average in veterans who are receiving VA healthcare.”

Since July, the Veterans Reintegration Task Force, a twenty-member team, made up of lawmakers, state agencies and the military have been meeting to discuss how to improve veterans services in Utah. Schow says the group is planning to introduce some of their ideas to the legislature in the upcoming session. 

“We’re looking at all kinds of veterans programs: healthcare, education, mental health, employment, the whole gamut. And this task force is going to be making some recommendations trying to help those who have served in the military.”

There are approximately 165,000 veterans living in Utah. Vietnam veterans now make up the largest group of veterans in the state.