It’s no secret that when returning from service, some veterans have a hard time adapting to civilian life. As a vet himself, the issue hits close to home for Al Eaton.
“They often times leave their families for a 12 month deployment, sometimes several 12 month deployments, and it’s the least we can do when they come back to try and help them out,” Eaton said.
Eaton says he saw veterans getting help from local organizations, but saw there were some services that weren’t offered. So, in 2009, he started the Southern Tier Veterans Support Group.
“We try to fill in those holes. We work with those organizations. We don’t duplicate what they’re already doing, but we collaborate with them and if there’s a need that a veteran has that they can’t fulfill, that’s when we step in,” Eaton said.
STVSG assists veterans with everything from education, medical treatment and job placement, but with great services, comes a great cost.
That’s where Tioga Downs stepped in. Two years ago, the racino held a concert from which all proceeds were donated to the group. That show raised more than $65,000. Last year, it was up to $78,000 and this year, more than $80,000 is expected to be donated from the Pam Tillis and Lorrie Morgan concert.
“It’s not right that they come home and they have problems getting a job or getting back on their feet. A lot of them have been injured and a lot of them have had post-traumatic stress, even if they weren’t injured,” said Jeff Gural, owner of Tioga Downs.
While plenty of other agencies assist veterans across the nation, almost every dollar raised at the concert benefits soldiers in the Southern Tier.
“People in our community like to know the money they’re donated stays in our community. Ninety percent goes directly to veterans. We have very little overhead and the fact that it all stays here is a big deal,” Eaton said.
Money that will help fight for those who fought for the nation.