By JANICE R. KIASKI
Herald-Star community editor
STEUBENVILLE - "Is that amazing?" Schelley Brooks asks from her desk at the Jefferson County Veterans Service Commission office at 423 North St. where she serves as its service officer.
FOR THE VETERANS — Schelley Brooks, Jefferson County Veterans Service Commission service officer, looks over a folder of newspaper clippings and memorabilia documenting what is now the annual all-free Veterans Health Fair entering its 20th year. This year’s event will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday in the Commons at Steubenville High School.
-- Janice R. Kiaski
In what is its upcoming 20th year, the annual all-free Veterans Health Fair that she helps coordinate has saved the lives of at least five veterans that she knows of.
"They came back and told us," Brooks said of the feedback from the event that this year will be held once again on Saturday in the Commons at Steubenville High School located at 420 N. Fourth St. The hours are from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
"Approximately five veterans' lives were saved because of the health screenings," Brooks said, explaining that the outcome for one veteran, for example, was the suspicion of oral cancer. Another veteran's diabetes was uncovered. Yet another had a serious heart condition unbeknownst to him.
"Isn't that cool?" Brooks poses a second question for affirmation as she checked out a folder of memorabilia on the now two decades of history on the health fair, an event borne out of need and in appreciation of veterans' service.
In its initial year in 1995, it registered assistance to 412 veterans with its highest year logging 620 veterans. "That was when the mill was on strike," Brooks said.
This year, participation is hoped to see increased numbers of veterans taking advantage of a variety of services offered at what is a collaborative effort involving the Jefferson County Veterans Service Commission; the Veterans Administration Pittsburgh Healthcare System with Heather Steele, community outreach coordinator, facilitating service participants; and Steubenville City Schools, which provides a convenient location.
"It's a partnership to do a good thing for our veterans," Brooks said.
"It's for any honorably discharged veteran from anywhere. If you can get here, you are welcome to attend," Brooks said, explaining residency is not limited to any community, county or state.
"We see male and female veterans from World War II to the present," Brooks said.
Letters notify past participants of the upcoming health fair.
"If you've participated before, you get a letter, but there are still many veterans out there who haven't and who can take advantage of this service," Brooks said.
Veterans already enrolled for Veterans Administration health care should bring their Veteran VA ID card. Those who are not enrolled for VA health care and do not have a VA ID card should bring a copy of their DD214 with them.
"They do enrollment so you can get enrolled in the (VA) health care system if you're not already enrolled," Brooks said.
Among the services to be provided are:
Brooks said one change in this year's event is that even though veterans don't have to pre-register to participate, identification is needed for the new veterans health ID card.
The Department of Veterans Affairs has begun the process of issuing new Veterans Health ID Cards (VHIC), according to Brooks.
The current cards, though they eventually will be replaced, are still good and will be until 2016 so veterans have three years to replace them, according to Brooks. There are several changes with the procedure of obtaining of the new ID cards - most importantly, the document requirements to obtain the new card has changed.
To get a new card, veterans must provide identity documents in person at the time a VHIC is requested. That means one primary form of government-issued photo identification and one secondary form of identification or two primary forms of identification. If the primary form of ID used is a state driver's license, the address listed on it must be current and correct. If not, a postmarked letter with the correct address must be provided at the time that the VHIC photo is taken, according to information Brooks provided.
Inquiries about the upcoming health fair can be directed to Brooks by phone at (740) 283-8571 or by e-mail to Schelley@JeffersonCountyOh.com.
Help for veterans in the preventative services - from flu shots to screenings - is definitely an important element of the health far, Brooks notes.
But it's an environment as well that fosters a spirit of fellowship among those who have served.
"You see a lot of camaraderie at these," Brooks said.
"The bond between veterans is an amazing thing."