The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

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November 12, 2012

Counselor pays tribute to Vietnam vets

CONNEAUT —  An ex-soldier who works and counsels fellows military veterans paid special notice to Vietnam-era troops at Conneaut’s Veterans Day ceremony Sunday morning.

Gini Geffert, assistant director of Lake County Veterans Service Commission, directed many of her comments to the Vietnam vets in the sizable crowd. Geffert was the guest speaker at the annual ceremony, held outside City Hall.

Vietnam veterans, at one time hesitant to seek assistance, are now stepping up and setting an excellent example for troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, she said.

“Our offices are busier than ever, and the largest group we’re helping today are the Vietnam vets,” Geffert said. “At first, they were reluctant to help, especially because they felt their government had turned its back on them.”

Since then, Vietnam-era vets have become more vocal about receiving benefits and the federal government has noticed, Geffert said. As a result, assistance may be easier for the troops who follow, she said.

“These young veterans owe a debt to the Vietnam veterans for fighting for the benefits they have earned,” Geffert said.

Ohio can take pride that it ranks among the top 10 states in services available to veterans, Geffert said. Many of these operations succeed despite relying solely on donations — not government funds — for their existence.

Military-based clubs and organizations must offer more to recruit members, Geffert said.

“These groups have to do better to maintain their memberships,” she said. “Don’t be just a bar, but a place (veterans) can come to for information.”

Geffert served stateside while in the Army, working in a clerical capacity, she said. “The only wound I received was a paper cut,” she said.

Initially, Geffert felt “humbled in the presence of wartime veterans,” but has grown to feel proud of her duty. “I am honored to stand with you today and say, ‘I am a veteran,’” she said.

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