ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. – “To honor our national promise to our veterans, we must continue to improve services for our men and women in uniform today and provide long overdue benefits for the veterans and military retirees who have already served.” Spoken by former U.S. Representative Solomon Ortiz of Texas, these words often mirror the sentiments of Americans across the nation.
For the APG Sexual Harassment Assault Response Prevention, or SHARP, Resource Center, the meaning is in no way lost as it aggressively pursues ways to keep that national promise. Already a nexus for information services, the center has become a beacon for active duty service members, veterans and their family members in search of counseling and a host of other support services. The services are also available to members of the National Guard and reserve components.
According to Tracy Marshall, APG SHARP program manager, the SHARP Resource Center— in collaboration with the Veterans Administration in the State of Maryland— have partnered to provide eligible veterans greater access to confidential counseling, and the convenience of receiving that counseling at the resource center on APG.
“The APG SHARP Resource Center provides consolidated services for the APG community. Our special partnership with the Veterans Administration in the State of Maryland, greatly reduces the need for our veterans to have to go to an area VA facility, where space is often limited,” Marshall said.
“Central to the partnership with Maryland, is the effort to eliminate and or remove any barriers that stand in the way of any eligible veteran obtaining available counseling services. Those services include individual counseling, group counseling, bereavement counseling, marital and family counseling, and sexual trauma counseling, alcohol and drug treatment referral, education and outreach, referral for VA benefits assistance, employment referral, as well as referral to community resources.”
Established by the U.S. Congress nearly 40 years ago, the Vet Center Program was born out of the need to address the inescapable reality that a significant number of veterans from the Vietnam area were still experiencing difficulty with readjustment problems. As time passed, Congress would go on to further extend eligibility to other war-era veterans.
A community-based program, Vet Centers today, are a part of the Veterans Health Administration. Its goal continues to be that of offering a wide range of outreach, referral and counseling services to eligible U.S. service members to assist them in addressing Post Traumatic Distress Disorders (PTSD), Military Sexual Trauma (MST), and making a positive readjustment to life.
APG Senior Commander Maj. Gen. Bruce T. Crawford, recognized the importance and significance of the upgrade in accommodations and services to veterans utilizing the SHARP Resource Center.
“The intent of this latest partnership is to break down the barriers to obtaining counseling and collaborate with Agency partners to enhance confidential counseling opportunities for our Veterans. Now, instead of seeking services at remote locations, counseling appointments are available on post. This benefits the APG workforce, the local community and solidifies the SHARP Resource Center’s reputation as a consolidated service provider.”
With MST as its core constituency, SHARP Resource Center officials pointed out eligibility requirements for veterans and active duty personnel who fall into this category. They said eligibility includes active duty service members who served on active duty in a theater of combat operations, or served in an area at a time during which hostilities occurred in that area; provided direct emergency medical or mental health care, or mortuary services to the casualties of combat operations or hostilities within or outside the theater of combat operations or area hostilities; and remotely controlled an unmanned aerial vehicle engaged in combat with an enemy of the United States or against an opposing military force in a theater of combat operations.
“The APG community can take both pride and comfort in knowing that the availability of these services are all about ensuring we never lose sight of the commitment and sacrifices made by the many men and women who have contributed so greatly to our nation’s defense,” Marshall said. “Having the SHARP Resource Center available to provide our veterans and family members easier access to quality services –services they have truly earned, is just one way we are able to honor our national promise to facilitate a successful transition and or readjustment to civilian life.”