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Kitsap welcomes new veterans group

National Association for Black Veterans Regional Commander Harvey Brooks (left) installs the officers of the organization
National Association for Black Veterans Regional Commander Harvey Brooks (left) installs the officers of the organization's new Kitsap Peninsula Chapter Jan. 8 at the Kitsap Community Resources building on Park Avenue in Bremerton.
— image credit: Rachel Brant/staff photo

There is a new group in Kitsap County dedicated to helping veterans.

State and regional commanders officially installed the Kitsap chapter of the National Association for Black Veterans (NABVETS) Thursday, Jan. 8.

Kitsap Peninsula Chapter Commander Roosevelt Smith said it's been about a year in the making, but he's happy the organization can finely begin serving the local community.

NABVETS regional commander Harvey Brooks and state commander Lloyd Burroughs were on hand Jan. 8 at the Kitsap Community Resources building in Bremerton to make the new chapter official.

"We know there's a real need for a veterans organization," Burroughs said. "That's why we're here — to give Bremerton an opportunity to have a service organization to help veterans here."

NABVETS was established in 1969 in Milwaukee by seven Vietnam War veterans. The group aimed to deal with issues facing minority veterans.

NABVETS partners with other organizations to provide services to veterans of all backgrounds. The organization also helps low-income and homeless veterans and does various community projects.

"We are a veterans organization that serves all veterans," Brooks said. "We want to make sure that every veteran who ever served gets the due he or she deserves."

Smith, an Air Force veteran, said he and Willis Papillion, Kitsap's deputy commander, have spent a couple years trying to install a chapter in the county because they saw there was a need for the organization's services.

"Seeing veterans come through Kitsap Mental Health Services that were homeless and suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), we knew something had to be done," Smith said.

Smith said NABVETS also works to upgrade the statuses of veterans who believe they should not have been dishonorably discharged from the military. Once the status is upgraded, they can receive veterans benefits and seek treatment for things such as PTSD, according to Smith.

Burroughs said there is a new crop of veterans leaving Iraq and Afghanistan who have PTSD or other complications and NABVETS helps those men and women seek proper treatment.

"We are getting the results that need to be gotten for our veterans," he said.

Brooks told the crowd gathered at the Kitsap chapter's installation that African Americans "have fought in every war that this country's ever had" and NABVETS is one way to pay tribute to those veterans.

"We have a long history and a long, long road to hoe," Brooks said.

Smith said NABVETS is open to veterans from all ethnic backgrounds.

"We are all inclusive," he said. "You just have to be a veteran."

NABVETS Kitsap chapter adopted the Surviving Change program Jan. 8. The program helps at-risk students succeed, graduate from high school and pursue their goals.

NABVETS is currently in 39 states and Washington has seven chapters, making it the largest state command in the country.

For more information on NABVETS Kitsap chapter, call (360) 434-7572 or (360) 697-5378.

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