SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) - This week VA Vet Centers across the country celebrate 40 years of service to our veterans and their families.
"We don't just close the doors at a certain time," explained Vet Center Director, Vernon Williams, "We have a call center for 24 hours-a-day. So we are unique in some of the things we are able to do as a Vet Center. That's why we are still here and still strong 40 years later."
As the Shreveport-Bossier Vet Center settles in to their new location on Shreveport Barksdale Boulevard, their mission stands strong.
It's one of compassion and support for veterans who may still be fighting a different kind of war.
"This a place where they can come and receive help, just get it off their chest, just to be able to talk about what their dealing with," said Readjustment Counselor, Dianne Adams Gregory, "A lot of them tell me they can't’ talk to their families, they can’t talk to their friends who aren’t military, they don’t understand. Here we do understand and we do try to help."
Despite having a number of resources, many veterans still struggle with an internal battle.
"It’s nice for them to be able to come into this environment and be able to talk about it and be comfortable and know that it’s ok to talk about these things," she continued, "This is a safe place to talk about stuff. It is very rewarding."
For Gregory, her family's connection to service is what draws her to the vet center.
"My grandfather, he died before I was born but I’ve heard stories about him. I really wish I had known him, he was in Korea and my step-grandfather, I did know him. Back then I wasn’t as interested and I wish I had talked to him more about his stories and the places he’d flown and stuff."
For others, the vet center is a way to continue their service.
"Appreciating veterans shouldn't be something we force on ourselves, it should be something that just comes naturally," said Williams.
Williams spent 24 years in the Air Force and he understands the needs from both sides.
"I think that's the thing we do best and with pride is welcome veterans in," he said. "(we) treat them with dignity and respect, no matter what their condition or circumstance, what their mental health or physical health conditions might be. We're here to work with them, reach out to them, and they are not alone."
Williams and the rest of the staff are committed to help ensure the quality of life for those who bravely
"Keeping a promise means they've said a lot of things overtime, whoever they were, to veterans. Whether they were in the recruiting station, whether they were in military training, whether they were getting ready to return from combat that we would take care of you and we would look out you."
A heavy weight they’re proud to carry.