By Kristin Fox
In November, the Jackson County Veterans Office is asking the community to support veterans with Operation Green Light, a new program which hopes to shine a light on the plight of veterans in counties across the country who are having a hard time connecting with benefits after serving their country.
Operation Green Light’s mission is to show support for veterans of all military conflicts, as well as raise awareness about the unique challenges faced by many veterans (and their families) and the resources that are available at the county, state, and federal level to assist veterans and their families.
At this week’s regular meeting of the Jackson County Board of Commissioners, city officials unanimously approved a resolution recognizing Operation Green Lights for Veterans in Jackson County. Sheila Setzer, County Service Officer with the Jackson County Veterans Office, presented the resolution to the board for their approval.
The resolution states — “The residents of Jackson County have great respect, admiration and the utmost gratitude for all the men and women who have selflessly served our country and this community in the Armed Forces. The contributions and sacrifices of the men and women who served in the Armed Forces have been vital in maintaining the freedoms and way of life enjoyed by our citizens. Jackson County seeks to honor these individuals who have paid the high price for freedom by placing themselves in harm’s way for the good of all.”
In advance of the upcoming Veterans Day holiday, Jackson County’s buildings would be illuminated green November 7th through the 13th as part of Operation Green Light, a new national collaborative initiative of the National Association of Counties (NACo) to support military veterans, as well as raise awareness about the unique challenges faced by many veterans and the resources that are available at the county, state, and federal level to assist veterans and their families.
Approximately 200,000 service members transition to civilian communities annually and an estimated 20 percent increase of service members will transition to civilian life in the near future. Studies indicate that 44 to 72 percent of service members experience high levels of stress during transition from military to civilian life. Active military service members transitioning from military service are at a high risk for suicide during their first year after military service.
Other statistics about veterans show:
- As of 2019, 11.7 million veterans are over the age of 65, which is about 61 percent of all veterans.
- Veterans make up roughly 11 percent of adults experiencing homelessness.
- Some 70 percent of veterans experiencing homelessness also experience substance abuse, and 50 percent live with mental illnesses like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The new national collaborative is spearheaded by the National Association of Counties and the National Association of County Veteran Service Officers, building upon the successful efforts of the New York State Association of Counties and the NYS County Veteran Service Officers’ Association in 2021.
In addition to lighting county buildings, residents and businesses are encouraged to participate by simply changing one light bulb in their house to a green bulb. This can be an exterior light that neighbors and passersby see, or an interior light that sparks a conversation with friends.
Setzer encourages residents to stop by the veterans office at 100 County Services Park, Sylva to pick up a green light. Green lights are also available for purchase at Lowe’s Home Improvement.
By shining a green light, we let our veterans know that they are seen, appreciated, and supported. While this event is focused around the week of Veterans Day (November 7th -13th), participants are encouraged to continue shining the light year-round. Residents can share their participation on social media using the hashtag #OperationGreenLight.
Visit naco.org/operationgreenlight for more information and links to resources available to veterans.
The Jackson County Veterans Office will also present the 7th Annual Veterans Day Parade on Saturday, November 12. For more information about Operation Green Light or the annual Veterans Day Parade, contact Setzer at (828) 631-2231 or visit the veterans office.