While everybody was hunkered down avoiding the coronavirus, a whole new crew took over the Williams County Veteran Service office.
Veteran Service Officer Dan Bonney is the new executive director, David Brubaker is in training to become a veteran service officer and Hope Russell is the new transportation coordinator.
“They are just about the perfect team and I think an awful lot of them,” outgoing Executive Director Mary Oliver said.
Bonnie served in the Army as a scout with the 10th Cavalry Regiment in Fort Hood, Texas, from 1995 to 1998 and continued his service with the Ohio National Guard through 2003 with the 2nd Squadron, 107th Cavalry Regiment in Sandusky. Prior to his promotion he was a veteran service officer in Williams County for four years.
“Dan’s an extraordinary human being and there needs to be a lot more like him,” Oliver said. “He’s not one to sit around. He knows the excitement of getting claims through the VA (Veterans Administration) and he’s good at the appeals process when they don’t. You couldn’t have a better person on the job.”
Brubaker is from Fayette and served 21 years in the Army, retiring as a chief warrant officer 2 at Fort Carson, Colorado.
“I ran facilities and maintenance for the Colorado National Guard Training Center,” he said. After that he stayed in Colorado, working in the VA as a legal administrative specialist for its Vocational Rehabilitation and Education Program.
“We came home to be closer to family last year, right before the pandemic hit,” he said. “Literally got home and the next day the governor shut everything down.”
Oliver described Brubaker as, “A bulldog in tracking things down.”
“That’s what the job needs,” she said. “Things don’t always go perfect and you need to lots of research.”
Russell grew up in the Air Force until her family moved to Sherwood in 2005 but she’s a Navy veteran. She was a “gear dog” who worked on the flight decks of aircraft carriers like the USS Truman and USS Eisenhower from 2010 to 2014.
“I interviewed her twice for the job and I just love her death,” Oliver said. “She’s the right person in the right position. When the office reopens 100% she’ll be the first person veterans talk to.”
The Williams County Veterans Service Office is funded by a five-tenths outside millage on property tax and its budget for 2021 is $405,505. The staff processes claims for veterans benefits and compensation for service-connected injuries through the VA, emergency financial assistance and transportation to and from VA medical facilities.
Approximately 3,000 veterans live in Williams County.
“They have served our country and they should have resources available, even if it’s just a ride,” Bonney said. “January and February is usually when things start picking up, but between the weather and COVID it’s been really slow. Before the pandemic we had 20-30 veterans coming in every week. It’s down to about 10 or 15 and most of those we’re meeting them in the parking lot for signatures. Ninety percent of everything we do is over the phone now. We’re at the mercy of everything going on the world but I can’t wait until everybody gets to live normal again.”
The office is located in the county’s East Annex at 1425 E. High St., Bryan, and the staff can be reached at 419-636-8812.
Whether life returns to normal or not, the annual Memorial Day weekend cookout is going to happen. “It’s on for that Friday,” Bonney said. “Come hell or high water, we will find a way.”