by Paul Rignell
Sherburne County Veterans Service Office staff saw growth this summer in the numbers of men and women who served the United States from World War II through current conflicts, and who are now turning to the county office for guidance on obtaining any benefits — medical or financial — that may be rightfully theirs.
The staff welcomed 195 veterans for first-time visits to the Sherburne County Government Center office in Elk River from June through August this year, which was up nearly 55 percent from the 126 veterans who made first visits to the office during those months in 2011.
And, overall, staff welcomed new and returning veterans for 410 office visits in August, which set a monthly record for 2012 and totaled 95 more visits than the previous August.
The office can schedule more appointments with the arrival this summer of Bruce Price, who as the county’s new deputy veterans service officer is filling a position that had been vacant for three years, he said, and now working with lead veterans service officer Eugene Graff. Their regular office hours are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays.
Graff and Price told the Sherburne County Board during a meeting Sept. 18 they have plans to open a new satellite office Oct. 3 in the county’s Public Safety Building at 27650 W. Fifth St., Zimmerman. Price is planning to keep regular hours there 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Wednesday to meet with veterans for whom that office would be more convenient.
The county operates a similar satellite office at the Sherburne History Center in Becker, where hours are 1 to 4 p.m. Thursdays.
These benefits ‘can change lives’
Price came to Sherburne County after serving as an assistant veterans service officer for four years in Stearns County. He gave 24 years of military service through the Army after growing up in Steubenville, Ohio, whose more famous natives have included the musician, actor and celebrity roaster Dean Martin, he said.
Price’s time with the Army included separate tours in Mainz, Nuremberg and Ansbach, Germany. Between those tours, he returned stateside for work and training first at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, and later at Fort McClellan, Ala. He served as a customs inspector and undercover narcotics officer in Mainz, he said, and later was approved to become a special agent in criminal investigation while in Ansbach, where he handled felony crimes.
From 1995 to 2001, he was based at the Pentagon and served as a personal security officer in the Protective Service Unit for the Department of Defense. Over the next three years he was an Army training coordinator at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., and he stayed there for three more years as project manager for an emergency management security corporation.
He came to Minnesota in 2007, working one year as an infrastructure security planner for the state’s Department of Transportation before joining the veterans service office in Stearns County.
Price’s early work in Sherburne County with Graff included visits with older veterans at the Guardian Angels Care Center campus in Elk River and the Talahi Care Center in St. Cloud, where they advised the veterans as they would for any who visit the county offices in Elk River, Becker or Zimmerman.
They cannot promise any benefits, but will work with any veterans to determine their eligibility. “It depends when they went in, how long they served, and what type of discharge they received when they got out,” Price said. “There are a lot who don’t realize they’re eligible. There’s no time limit.
“When they’re told about these benefits, it can change lives.”
Appointments are advised at any of the three county locations. Veterans may call the Elk River office at 763-765-3100 for more information.