AUGUSTA, Ga (WJBF) – Forces United is a non profit organization that helps veterans and their families. The organization says it raised more money in 2019 than ever before. They want to start the new year thanking the community because they say it would not have been possible without your support.
Deputy Director Don Clark says they will also start 2020 focused on bringing a state-run veteran cemetery to the Augusta Area.
“We had an amazing year in 2019,” Clark said about the success. “Getting folks who were homeless previously to now living in a home and getting a fresh start and reuniting them with their families,” he says about one of the programs they facilitate.
Forces United also had more partners step up last year than ever before.
“From Murphy Auto Group, they reached out to us when they first came in the area. Panera Bread, they’re a big partner of ours. I mean I could go on and on with all of the different partners that we have, but people really understand the benefits. They believe in the mission. They’re applying their efforts and aligning some of their efforts with what we’re doing,” Clark says.
Now in 2020 they will make a proposal to Georgia Governor Brian Kemp in effort to bring a state veteran cemetery to our area.
“The nearest two are Ft. Jackson, South Carolina in Columbia and Milledgeville, Ga, but family members have round trip 2, 3 if not a little bit more, hour drive to go and see their loved ones. With as much of a vibrant military community that we have here, it just absolutely makes sense for us to have a veteran cemetery here,” Clark points out.
For families of veterans who chose to bury their loved ones in the Augusta area instead, it can be thousands of dollars more expensive than putting their family member to rest in a veteran cemetery where they can receive financial assistance.
“We have 3 us congressman who have all given letters of support. One of whom is from South Carolina, two are of course from Georgia. We have pretty much all of the surrounding counties in the CSRA have adopted letters of resolution in support of this,” Clark explains.
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Clark says it would cost the state between $450,000 – $515, 000 each year to maintain the cemetery so right now the plan needs state approval before they can proceed. Al of the letters of support they have already gathered from local leaders will be packaged up to make their case to Governor Kemp.
“As long as he supports that, then we move to the next phase of submitting the application to the V.A. at the federal level,” Clark says.
While he had his team push for the veteran cemetery, they will also continue efforts like their work force development program.
“I didn’t have to do a resume prior to going in the military or while in so resume’s are a little foreign to me when I got out of the military,” Clark explains. “There are a lot of service members who are dealing with that.”
Forces United also helps connect veterans with health benefits.
“They are there for them, but a lot of them don’t know about them and a lot of them are intimidated by the process so we try to help them kind of ease that,” Clark says.
If you are a veteran in the Augusta area in need of help connected with resources, you can reach out to Forces United on their website. You can call 706-951-7506 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also visit their office at 701 Greene Street Augusta, GA 30901.
Photojournalist Gary Hipps