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West Fargo stepping up for veterans

The city of West Fargo wants to make sure that no military veterans living in the community are forgotten about.

On Nov. 16, the West Fargo City Commission passed a resolution to become a North Dakota Cares community.

"The idea is to make sure that veterans, families, survivors and service members don't fall between the cracks," said Mayor Rich Mattern. If they need support, the city will do what it can to steer them in the right direction to receive help, he said.

North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple officially established the ND Cares Coalition, a rights group for veterans and their families, in January. North Dakota is home to more than 56,000 veterans.

The coalition had already been in operation for 18 months. Dalrymple's January executive order pledged $500,000 from his executive budget to help the organization grow. First lady Betsy Dalrymple serves as chairwoman of ND Cares.

"Our veterans and servicemembers have sacrificed so much to take care of us and this coalition is another meaningful way we can take care of them," Dalrymple said. "When they return from deployments, their service may be over, but ours is just beginning, as we work to provide them with the benefits and services they deserve and have so honorably earned."

The program's mission is to strengthen an accessible, seamless network of support for service members, veterans, families and survivors.

West Fargo may be the first city in this part of the state to implement the program, Mattern said.

"We're just in the infancy state," Mattern said. The city has formed a steering committee to develop the program.

That committee will consist of a core group of people to sit down and discuss ways to better help veterans in the community, Tina Fisk, West Fargo city administrator said. She is a member of the state ND Cares Advisory Committee.

Fisk said she sees the West Fargo steering committee having close ties with other organizations such as the West Fargo VFW, providing strong support for veterans and doing activities that show them that they are appreciated.

"There are four things that we have to do and they are not difficult," Mattern said. They include forming a steering committee, passing a resolution of support, hold one event per year and install signs noting that West Fargo is a ND Cares city.

"It will take a little while to get up and running," Mattern said. "By next spring we will hopefully have a good handle on stuff."

ND Cares is comprised of a team of more than 45 military and civilian professionals from throughout North Dakota. Behavioral health is a focus of ND Cares, resulting in problems that are far reaching and take an enormous toll on individuals, their families, communities and society, according to a document released by the governor's office.

Mattern said no particular needs have been identified in West Fargo but will become more apparent as the program moves forward.