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Wood County veterans, first responders support one another through monthly dinners

Published: Nov. 10, 2021 at 9:42 PM CST|Updated: Nov. 10, 2021 at 11:10 PM CST
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MINEOLA, Texas (KLTV) - Just inside the doors of the American Legion Post 296 in Mineola, laughter, friendly smiles, and a warm meal are waiting for veterans and first responders.

John Ring is one of the facilitators for the monthly dinners. He said they started dinners and meeting for coffee when they experienced the need.

“Back in August 2020, because of a Vietnam vet that was going through difficult times, we started gathering and meeting as a small group,” Ring said. “It was just four of us when we first started, but we realized that veterans needed that kind of support, someone to talk to.”

Veterans, first responders, and their families are all invited to join. It’s a place to talk. Ring said it’s not like it would be in a clinical setting, but more casual.

“We just want veterans to come out and get to know one another. If they’re having a bad day, stand up, say something, or find that one person in this group that you can connect with and talk to them,” he said.

Chris Macellaro is another facilitator and a volunteer firefighter with the Quitman Fire Department. He said moments like these can help ease the stress of their jobs, or past experiences.

“You get a bad call, you come back, sometimes there’s not adequate time to decompress before the next call,” Macellaro said. “From a mental health standpoint, it really helps to be able to talk about a situation and this group is a perfect opportunity for men and women both to come in and decompress, bring their families, run around as you can see the kids are running around having a good time, and just talk.”

Ring said it’s important that families know they are invited. He says oftentimes with PTSD the whole family is impacted.

“So you got spouses and children that are in the home that veteran or first responder that are going through crisis, so we want to welcome everybody,” Ring said.

While it might not be for everyone, Macellaro encourages people to come out.

“Give it a try, please. Give it a try. If you don’t like it, hey, there’s other things to do,” Macellaro said. “But from a community level this is just first responders and veterans from the Wood County area. If you’re a part of one of those groups, or you’re a veteran of the United States Military, this is a great place to come and reconnect with men and women that have served and that have done community service before.”

To see when they meet or get services, you can visit Walk for Vets or They Got Your 6.

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