Editorial: Veterans have a friend in TopekaPosted: December 26, 2014 - 2:34pm http://cjonline.com/opinion/2014-12-26/editorial-veterans-have-friend-topeka
CHRIS NEAL/THE CAPITAL-JOURNALMelissa Jarboe, executive director of the Military Veteran Project, talks about the nonprofit's work recently in her new office in the Topeka Rescue Mission's building at 1208 N. Kansas Ave. Related StoriesThe Capital-Journal Melissa Jarboe’s plan to keep the nonprofit Military Veteran Project a small, low-key operation in Kansas was a complete failure.
That’s the good news. And there is no bad news accompanying it.
The foundation Jarboe created to assist veterans following the death of her husband, Army Sgt. Jamie Jarboe, in 2012 didn’t stay small or low-key for very long. Thousands of struggling veterans across the country have benefited in various ways through the services offered by the Military Veteran Project, and plans are underway to continue to grow the project so it can help more.
Topeka Rescue Mission recently made space available for the project in one of its buildings — allowing it to save money now spent on rent — and Jarboe intends to begin a capital campaign next year to raise funding for a transitional housing facility from which veterans can reintegrate into society after leaving the service. She says she has been offered land in Illinois, Virginia and Texas but hopes to stay in Topeka, where she and the Military Veteran Project have built relationships.
Given the effort she has put into the project over the past couple of years, there’s little reason to think Jarboe won’t be successful. We wish her well and thank her for all she has done to date to make civilian life more manageable for our country’s military veterans who struggle after taking off the uniform.
The story of Jarboe and the Military Veteran Project is a heartwarming one today, but its roots are embedded in sorrow and sadness. Sgt. Jarboe was hit in the neck by a sniper’s bullet in April 2011 in the Zhari district of Afghanistan. He was paralyzed from the chest down and, after undergoing more than 115 surgeries in 10 months, died on March 21, 2012.
The Military Veteran Project is part of Melissa Jarboe’s way of keeping a promise to her husband, that other veterans wouldn’t suffer as he had. The network Jarboe has built during the project’s short history reaches out to struggling veterans dealing with thoughts of suicide and offers assistance with benefits paperwork and a range of other services, including seeking suitable medical care when it isn’t immediately available through the Veterans Affairs health care system.
At a time when the Department of Veterans Affairs is trying to dig itself out of a hole caused by underfunding and neglect, while also trying to repair the capabilities and reputation of its health care system, veterans are fortunate, indeed, to have Melissa Jarboe on their side.
Topekans should be proud that she and the Military Veteran Project consider the community their home.
Members of The Capital-Journal Editorial Advisory Board are Gregg Ireland, Mike Hall, Fred Johnson, Ray Beers Jr., Garry Cushinberry, John Stauffer, Frank Ybarra and Sally Zellers.
My name is Melissa Jarboe, military spouse, wounded warrior wife and war widow. Today and everyday moving forward, I will honor the sacrifice of our men and women who selflessly serve our nation.