2017-09-03 / Editorial

We salute county’s Veterans Affairs director

Lapeer County is home to approximately 6,500 veterans, approximately 65 percent who served in the Vietnam War whose service and sacrifice is being honored with a special dinner in October in North Branch (see story on front page).

We’re fortunate in Lapeer County to have an outstanding veterans support community — whether it be the staff at the Lapeer County Veterans Affairs Office, the American Legion, the VFW, the Forty and Eight Voiture 1536, or the Daughters of the American Revolution to name a few.

They work tirelessly and without fanfare to provide the respect veterans deserve, but also to ensure they receive all the government benefits allowed to them particularly if they were injured or suffered mental health trauma as the result of their time in uniform.

The Lapeer County Vietnam 50th Anniversary Commemorative Committee, for example, has been working for the last three years to organize and host events to honor Vietnam War veterans — many to this day who still feel they haven’t been properly welcomed or thanked by their country or even hometown communities for their service. Their mission culminates with a special dinner to be held Oct. 21 at the North Branch Wesleyan Church.

Much credit for improved notification and outreach to connect with all Lapeer County veterans and their families is owed to Ed Ronders, director of the Lapeer County Veterans Affairs Office, and his dedicated staff who work to get veterans the help they’re owed and deserve.

Ronders was hired as director of the local VA office in March 2015, and by all accounts he and his staff have done an incredible job to make access to information and answers much easier than it’s been in the past.

We’ve all know about the mess within the VA at the national level as far as slow response times to answer claims. Ronders in his first days on the job vowed to reverse that reputation as it relates to matters he can control in his wheelhouse here in Lapeer County. He has built a career around veterans’ affairs, unofficially beginning with his stint in the Navy.

After being treated well in the Navy, Ronders decided to go to Michigan State University, where he began his career in journalism, serving as the sports editor at the State News. He followed up with a number of writing jobs in Ohio, after which he returned to Michigan and took a job at the Flint Journal and settled in nearby Davison.

Ronders worked at the Flint Journal for more than 18 years, including helping with their bureau in Lapeer which is how he became familiar with the city. He has been officially involved in veterans’ affairs since then.

As a result he and the local VA staff are everywhere. Thanks to his efforts once again during the Eastern Michigan State Fair a free admission day for veterans was offered — the result of a collaboration that includes the Lapeer County Veterans Affairs Office, Eastern Michigan Fair Board and Kroger Foods of Imlay City.

Thanks to Ronders and his staff, he was able to get the Lapeer County Commission to pass a resolution that declares next Saturday (Sept. 9) as “Honoring Heroes Day” throughout Lapeer County. The Honoring Heroes Day will include a program at the DuPont-Lapeer Airport in Mayfield Township from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Various resources providing health, housing, education and employment will attend be at the Veterans Village at the airport to link veterans to benefits and services.

Hats off to Ronders, the Lapeer County Veterans Affairs Office staff and all veterans’ organizations and volunteers whose mission is to improve the quality of life of local veterans and their families. Your good work every day makes a difference.

Thank you.

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