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Goodwill Career Connections hosts Veterans Appreciation luncheon

By Shavonne Walker
shavonne.walker@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Since she was a little girl, Barbara Knox had admired women in uniform so much that she wanted to wear one of her own.

After college, Knox joined the military. She served eight years in military intelligence for the Army followed by two years of service with the National Guard.

On Friday, about 30 veterans including Knox were honored at Goodwill Career Connections Center, 1923 S. Main St., with an appreciation luncheon.

In addition to providing free resumé-writing assistance, skills assessment, career coaching, access to computers, help with interviewing skills and job placement services for the unemployed, the agency provides those same services for veterans through its Veterans Intake and Employment Workshop (VIEW). The workshop is free and meets at 9 a.m. the first two Fridays of each month.

Ninety cents of every dollar that is spent at Goodwill stores helps provide free services for people at the Career Connections Center.

Knox moved to Salisbury about three months ago after she broke her wrist and arm. She underwent rehabilitation at Hefner Veterans Affairs Medical Center. Her social worker helped her find an apartment in Salisbury.

Knox is a Vietnam-era veteran who began her service at Fort Bragg then served in Germany. She returned to the United States to Fort Hood, then relocated to Germany before being honorably discharged. The military wasn’t for her three daughters, she said, but they did learn about serving the community from their mother. All of her daughters are nurses, Knox said proudly.

One of her nieces is in the Navy and is stationed at Virginia Beach.

“I’m very proud of her,” Knox said.

Knox often passed the Career Connections Center while riding the bus and recently received information from the VA about Friday’s luncheon.

“I’m excited about Veterans Day. I appreciate the different places that honor us on that day,” Knox said.

“We are all veterans trying to help each other, sometimes with a word of encouragement or a hug,” she said.

“I’m 64 now. I wish I could go back,” she said.

She said what some people don’t quite understand is why people serve in the military.

“We did it in defense of country. I have deep feelings for this,” she said.

“If you can make it in the military, you can make it anywhere,” she said with a laugh.

She hopes to return to the Career Connections Center to take a refresher computer course.

Salisbury Mayor Pro Tem David Post, who spoke during the luncheon, said he never served in the military but he applauds those who have. His father, Eddie Post, was a World War II veteran.

Post recalled the draft and how a college friend’s number was called, but his wasn’t.

His longtime friend Jerry Mintz, who served in Vietnam, was wounded and returned home to Rowan County. Mintz endured years of surgeries related to a hip injury sustained during the war. One day, he took his uniform to the dry cleaners to be cleaned “just because,” he told his wife.

He took it out of the closet a week or so later and when she returned home from work, the uniform was spread across the bed. Beside it was Jerry. He had died.

Mintz’s name is not on the wall of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, but it should be, Post said.

“You’re sort of like the wall that is between freedom and those who would take our freedoms,” Post said of veterans.

Emilio Brown, a native of Puerto Rico, served during the Vietnam War. He served 22 years and 15 days in the military. He was encouraged by an uncle, who was also in the military.

“I remember coming back and we weren’t appreciated,” Brown said with tears in his eyes.

He recalled friends and family who served in the military who are now deceased, including the uncle who encouraged him to join.

“If I had it to do all over again, I would,” Brown said of military service.

He began as a helicopter mechanic and ended his military career as a medic. Fellow servicemen tried to get him to join Special Forces, but he declined because he’d just had a child he didn’t want to leave.

He retired from Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where he trained others to use computer equipment. He was among the first to help the hospital integrate into using computers.

Jeremiah Peacock was in the Navy for two years as a nuclear mechanic working on nuclear reactors. His grandfather was also in the Navy and served in World War II.

“The support of veterans is awesome,” Peacock said. “This program has been good. I didn’t know about this. There’s a lot of good people who try to do good things.”

Donovan Hamm, coordinator of VIEW and also a veteran, wanted to show appreciation for veterans. He helped organize the luncheon and connected with area businesses to obtain gift cards and other items to give to the veterans through a drawing.

Hamm was in the military for 12 years, four of them on active duty. His father and uncles were also in the military, serving during the Vietnam era. He said in addition to following his family’s military tradition, he joined for the education opportunities.

“This is a passion for me,” he said of helping veterans. “It’s been a blessing to do something like this for them.”

For more information about the veterans programs offered through Goodwill Career Connections, contact Donovan Hamm at 704-638-6434.

Contact reporter Shavonne Walker at 704-797-4253.

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