AG, Virginia Guard staff on hand as Governor receives keys to new Freedom Support Center at Fort Monroe

Gov. Bob McDonnell and First Lady Maureen McDonnell receive a ceremonial key to the Freedom Support Center Nov. 30, at Fort Monroe. The center will serve as a one-stop service facility for service members, veterans and their families. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class A.J. Coyne, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

FORT MONROE, Va. — Maj. Gen. Daniel E. Long Jr., the Adjutant General of Virginia, Col. Thom Morgan, director of manpower and personnel for the Virginia Guard, and representatives of Virginia National Guard Family Programs joined Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife, First Lady Maureen McDonnell, for the passing of the keys to the Freedom Support Center Nov. 30 at Fort Monroe, Va. The center will serve as a “one-stop” service facility for active duty, reserve and National Guard service members, their families and veterans with information on government benefits and programs, career planning, job training programs, financial counseling, short-term financial aid, and more.

The Freedom Support Center adds a physical dimension to First Lady McDonnell’s SOS (Serving Our Service Member Families) initiative. Before the Freedom Support Center was operational, SOS was primarily a virtual program, offering connections between families and veterans and the businesses, community organizations and volunteers.

“Shortly after launching SOS I had the privilege of becoming acquainted with the Military Family Support Center in Salem, Va., which is a volunteer organization that serves all servicemembers in Southwest Virginia,” she said. “They welcome all the families of our deployed, recently transitioned Soldiers, or long retired veterans in times of need. These volunteers provide food, gently used items, short-term financial aid and a sense of community to the people they serve. It amazes me how much they are able to accomplish with the few resources they have. That handful of volunteers inspired me to take my idea to the next level and consider the benefit of a physical center to serve as a one stop shop that links military families and veterans across the state.”

The Freedom Support Center at Fort Monroe is a highly collaborative, fully engaged, “one stop” service facility for both active, reserves and National Guard service members, their families and veterans. It connects these individuals and families with organizations that can assist with their current circumstances as well as offer assistance with the next phase of their journey during a transition.

Gov. Bob McDonnell speaks with Vickie Sais, Virginia National Guard director of Family Programs, at the passing of the keys to the Fort Monroe Freedom Support Center Nov. 30. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class A.J. Coyne, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

“The Freedom Support Center provides our Family Assistance Center Specialist, Teresa Merritt, the opportunity to co-locate with key partners supporting our Virginia National Guard members and other service members and their families in the Hampton Roads area,” Morgan said. “We will also have other Family Programs consultants available periodically. A central location for receiving comprehensive resolution to any issue provides exceptional customer service possibilities.”

By providing a central, one stop location, service members, veterans and their families have the opportunity to connect with available state, federal and local government programs and benefits, as well as service providers from Virginia and throughout the United States.

“When I became governor, we set a goal of making Virginia the most veteran friendly state,” Governor McDonnell said. “I don’t think any other state for the last 236 years, since Mr. Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, has had this incredible, positive relationship, and really the love of the military, that Virginia has had.”

“There are 3,000 veterans service support agencies, public and private, around the country,” he added. “What better mission to have than to provide a one-stop shop so those men and women don’t have to search the internet, search the yellow pages or make a bunch of phone calls or get the run around? They can just go to one place that’s going to have all the proper partners and all the proper inventory of everything that can be done at the state, federal and local level and private sector to be able to help that veteran and his or her family to get what they need.”

Fort Monroe is on the National Register of Historic Places and was decommissioned as an active duty Army installation in 2011. The Fort Monroe Authority was created by an act of the Virginia General Assembly in 2010 and is a political subdivision of the Commonwealth of Virginia charged with reuse planning and management in perpetuity of Fort Monroe.

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