On my birthday this year, May 14, I was offered a full time position as a Clinical Case Manager at the Veterans Assistance Foundation, a non-profit organization that operates the Veterans Housing and Recovery Program at the Wisconsin Veterans Home at King, WI.
King holds a special place in my heart because my Grandpa Porath spent the last years of his life there. When we visited him, he would take us for a tour of the campus, which is extensive. He took us to the five lane bowling alley where they offered beer for sale, the viewing area for the water skiing group that offered free weekly performances for the veterans, and the museum to which he donated his "war trophies" of Swastika arm bands taken from Nazi soldiers that he had killed. He told us he had three of them, which I never doubted as he landed "D plus three", three days after D Day, June 9, 1944, when he landed in Normandy France from north Africa.
Working at King felt like honoring my Grandpa in a way that no one else in my family could. At 1800 hours the bells chime for 10 minutes. The cottages where married couples lived when Grandpa was there are no longer habitable due to asbestos and lead paint. They can't be torn down because of the asbestos exposure risk, so they are left to rot where they stand. I frequently drive past them looking for a parking spot, lace curtains and flower beds still there. It evokes such a sense of longing and sadness that prompts me to park in the field across the street rather than violate the memories of the couples who previously lived there.
My first week of full time work at VHRP (Veterans Home and Recovery Program) started on June 17, 2019. As with any new job, my first week was spent getting to know the veterans who would be on my clinical caseload, i.e., veterans with a mental health or AODA diagnoses. On Thursday, June 20, 2019 the Site Director was "walked out" from her position. This sent up red flags for the Case Manager I share an office with. On Friday, June 21st our Executive Director told the staff, (me, the Case Manager, Administrative Assistant, and Driver/Chef) to either be at the office or be available by telephone for a conference call held at Stordock Hall at 1600 hours. We were instructed to bring our personal items with us as we were directed not to return to the 2nd floor of MacArthur Hall where we worked.
That was when all of us were told that the second year of our program grant was revoked and our program was scheduled to end on September 30, 2019. There are A LOT of political reasons I can direct you to if you are interested in why the WDVA (Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs) stopped funding the grant we had received for 2 years (reapplication required by 09-29-20). Please contact me if you are interested in informing other veteran's organizations about our program closure. Regardless, I was offered a Clinical Case Manager position that happened to open up at the VHRP location in Green Bay. Needless to say I took that position and am in the process of dividing my time between King and Green Bay.
Thank God we didn't sign a lease for a totally kick ass townhouse in Waupaca. We have signed a lease for a side-by-side duplex in Green Bay and will spend the month of August moving from Menasha to Green Bay. We have scheduled movers for 08-16-19 and will spend that weekend arranging our new home in Green Bay.
I do, however, have a commitment to the program in King until 09-30-19, which happens to be our 14th wedding anniversary. I will be there until 2359 come hell or high water as I know my coworkers will be. We are currently working hard to ensure that every veteran in our King program will be placed in stable housing, whether that be in another program or supported independent housing.
For me, I will be traveling between our home in Menasha to King or from our home in Green Bay to the VHRP in Green Bay or from there to King.
King continues to feel like home to me. Part of Grandpa Porath's soul still lives there, despite years of being reunited with my Grandma Porath in Wausau. When a veteran arrives at King, likely to spend his last days, weeks, or years of his life surrounded by his brother veterans, the announcement of "another American hero has joined us us here at King" is made throughout every residence hall, including the second floor of MacArthur Hall. I can only hope that announcement was made when my grandfather arrived there, to spend his final years with his brother veterans.