By DOTTY NIST
In keeping with Veteran’s Day, Walton Republican Women Federated (WRWF) members and guests heard from Patt Maney, a distinguished retired Army brigadier general, attorney and retired Okaloosa County judge—and someone who has worked hard to help veterans. The club also welcomed new members.
This was at the WRWF general membership meeting on Nov. 14 at Cantina Laredo in Grand Boulevard.
An ROTC graduate, Maney served almost 37 years in the Army Reserve, including over eight years of active duty, with service in Panama, Haiti, Bosnia, and Afghanistan. In Bosnia, he served with the Office of the High Representative, an international peace implementation organization established by the Dayton Peace Accord, ultimately serving as the acting chief of staff. In Afghanistan, he was the senior advisor for the political sector for the U.S. ambassador, with the diplomatic rank of attache.
General Maney was an advisor to various Afghan government ministries and was on the planning committee for President Kharzai’s first inauguration. After 17 months in that country, he was wounded in an IED blast and spent approximately 20 months at Walter Reed Army Hospital.
As a judge, Maney served for six years on the Florida Supreme Court’s Task Force on Mental Health and Substance Abuse. He previously served on the Florida Defense Support Task Force and the Suicide Prevention Coordinating Council. He currently serves on the Florida Steering Committee on Problem-Solving Courts and the DUI Program Review Board for the Department of Highway Safety.
He has served four Veteran’s Administration (VA) secretaries as a member of the Readjustment Advisory Committee.
“Out of hard times frequently come good things,” was the theme of Maney’s remarks to the club members.
He described events in Afghanistan leading up to his being wounded. Faced with an economy that was not working and with no potable water available, Maney recalled leading an expedition into the mountains to look for good drinking water, so that it water would no longer have to be flown in. On the return trip, he was wounded when an IED blew up just in front of the vehicle he was riding in. He said he and his companions quickly got out and jumped into another vehicle to get away from the scene.
Describing himself as “broken” since being wounded, Maney made the surprising statement, “It really became a blessing to have been blown up.”
He explained that previously when he had visited Walter Reed Army Hospital, he had always felt inadequate in trying to comfort veterans there. Staying there for almost two years after his accident, he said it became natural to talk with other wounded veterans. “You know everybody’s broken,” he said.
Maney’s efforts for veterans have included starting a community-based Stand Down for Homeless Veterans and working with the VA to successfully get a Vet Center established in Okaloosa County.
During his years as a judge, he started a Mental Health Court and a Veterans Treatment Court. A number of years ago, legislation put in place by the state authorizing veterans courts to specifically address the substance abuse and mental health needs of veterans was named in Maney’s honor : the T. Patt Maney Veterans Treatment Act.
Maney explained that the goals of the Veterans Treatment Court is to reduce recidivism by providing treatment. “We emphasize military cohesion,” he added. Many veterans face the challenge of feeling isolated, and spending time with other veterans helps them “get through hard times,” Maney noted.
Maney suggested getting a Vet Center established south of the bay in Walton County for veterans.
He passed out written information on the Okaloosa County Vet Center, located in Shalimar, which provides help to combat veterans and their families, including counseling services, groups and workshops for individuals and families, bereavement counseling, counseling for military sexual trauma, and outreach programs and workshops to educate community organizations about combat readjustment issues and post traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD).
War zone veterans from all eras are eligible for Vet Center services, and there is no cost to the veterans or their families for these services.
Information on Vet Centers is available online at www.vetcenter.va.gov or by calling 1-877-WAR-VETS.
Members were encouraged to attend the ground breaking for the Veterans Lodge in the DeFuniak Springs area on Nov. 15.
Five new club members were welcomed, including Gillian Lee, Karen White, Susan Coffey, LaRae Sorrell, Teri Vice, Diana Crowder.
The next WRWF general membership meeting is scheduled for Dec. 18, with the chorus from Northwest Florida State College to perform.
Information on Walton Republican Women Federated is available by contacting Lisa Johnson, club president, at firstname.lastname@example.org.