Benefit changes topic of upcoming Veterans Resource Fair

Patti Carpenter

There’s one message veteran Nicolle Laffin wants to relay to her fellow veterans: “You are not alone.”
Laffin, a retired combat veteran herself, is the Wyoming Veterans commissioner for the 5th Judicial District. The district is hosting a Veterans Resource Fair at the Big Horn County Fairgrounds in Basin on Saturday, May 4, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Laffin has commitments from more than 30 representatives of organizations that provide services to veterans, active service members and their families. Several of the organizations attending the event provide services to those outside the military population, as well.
An opening ceremony will take place at 11:30 a.m., followed by guest speaker, former U.S. Army Ranger Blake Fuhriman, founder of the Veterans Navigation Network. Fuhriman served as a ranger for four years, including three deployments to Afghanistan. He left the military after a parachuting injury. Like many veterans Fuhriman faced challenges during his transition from military to private life, which prompted him to create the Veterans Navigation Network, an organization purposed with helping veterans in their transition to civilian life.
Laffin said she chose Basin as the location for the event because it is the center of the district, which serves Park, Big Horn, Washakie and Hot Springs counties.
Representatives will be on hand to offer information from the following organizations: Wyoming Veterans Commission, District Veterans Service Officer, The American Legion - Powell Post #26-Funeral Honor Guard, Downrange Warriors, Wyoming Workforce, Wyoming Small Business and Development Centers, Northwest College, Senator Lummis’ Office, Volunteers of America, Dog Tag Buddies, NW Battle Buddies, Veterans Talking to Veterans, Highly Rural Transportation Service, Food Insecurities Program, Saddles in Service, American Legion - Powell Post #26 - Boxing Class, Wyoming Behavioral Institute, Gillette College, Military One Source, Concerned Vets of America, American Foundation for Suicide, Veterans Navigation Network, AARP, Team Rubicon, Harold Wages Mortgage Services, VA - Women’s Support Group, Vet Center, SBA’s Veteran Business Outreach and Paws 4 Purple Hearts.
“Our biggest struggle here in the basin is that we are so sparsely populated and so spread out,” said Laffin. “It’s easy to get an overall feeling of being isolated.”
Laffin has made it her mission to combat that isolation by connecting veterans to other veterans and to services and organizations that provide them with a sense of belonging to a military community again.
“We would like to encourage veterans of all ages to come to the resource fair, and to also consider joining some of the local service organizations,” said Laffin. “A lot of these organizations only meet once a month, but you’re touching base and making a friend, and you might change that person’s life.
“One of the hardest things for military personnel is that while you’re serving you’re part of a group, you have a mission, and you know what you’re doing. When you leave the service, you’re really left out in the wind. There is no network unless you join a service organization. For many veterans, they feel a loss of mission. One of the things we’re trying to do is help veterans find that sense of mission again. Whether it be in a job, through community service or through a service organization or any social group.”