LAWTON, OK (KSWO) –U.S. Senator James Lankford was in Lawton Tuesday to meet with those who play a vital in helping meet the needs of veterans in the area.
He spent time with counselors at the Vet Center, discussing the various services they offer such as job placement and helping their families adapt to the emotional changes they may see in their loved ones as a result of their time in a combat zone.
While on his tour of the Vet Center, employees told him about the various methods that help active duty soldiers, as well as veterans, deal with tough topics like sexual abuse and how the center helps prepare veterans for reintroduction to the civilian lifestyle.
When a solider returns home from deployment, adjusting to a new normal can be difficult. That's why Sen. Lankford says veteran centers can help ease some of that burden.
"How is the community engaging and mentoring young families, helping families that are in need, what does that look like? We are walking alongside veterans and their families like here at the Vet Center," Sen. Lankford said.
Ken Harris, a counselor at the Vet Center and a veteran himself, knows the struggle of that reintroduction all too well. When he returned home from fighting in the Gulf War, there was no program to help him cope with the distance he felt around his friends and loved ones.
"It's important that they have an outreach area so they can vent and be able to understand what's going on with them. We are here to support them and give them all the help that they need," Harris said.
That help includes access to the proper health care they need. The recent scandal exposed the gaps in the system that left some veterans waiting for months to see a doctor.
"We passed into law, three years ago, the ability for veterans who live 40 miles or more from a vet center to be able to have their individual care through that through other physicians or hospitals closer to home. That has not been implemented well in Oklahoma or other parts of the country and we're trying to get that corrected," Sen. Lankford said.
"Here in Oklahoma, right here in Lawton, Oklahoma, the program has been working really well. Veterans aren't waiting an extended amount of time. Veterans are getting the service they deserve and from my veterans that I hear they're quite ok with it," Harris said.
Harris said the visit reassured him that politicians do care about veterans in Lawton.
"They're here to show us that they do support the veterans. Not only active duty, but those who've already served their county and already moved on back into civilian life to say 'hey, I got your six. I got your back," Harris said.
Senator Lankford also visited the Lawton Food Bank, the Department of Human Services and Foster Care Services. He went on to speak at a Boy Scouts banquet at Cameron University.