Fundraiser will benefit veterans’ program
by Jack Deming
Nov 08, 2013 | 3086 views | 0 0 comments | 88 88 recommendations | email to a friend | print
DOVER- When local Vietnam veteran Ray Finnegan died in May, his wife Mary Jane turned to the Vermont Veterans and Family Outreach Center in Bennington to help her understand and access the benefits that her family was entitled to. The center has helped countless veterans and their families from the World War II era to the post 9/11 conflicts, and on Veterans Day, Dot’s of Dover will be giving back to an organization that has helped members of the local community.

On Monday, November 11, Dot’s of Dover will be donating half of the proceeds the diner generates between 11 am and 3 pm. The proceeds will go directly to the outreach center in Bennington, which has helped both the Finnegan family and the family of Dot’s of Dover manager Betsy Reagan, whose father Joe was a medic in the Battle of the Bulge during World War II. The fundraiser will be in honor of Ray Finnegan, a Purple Heart recipient, who died of cancer caused by exposure to Agent Orange in the Vietnam War.

“They are there to help families and veterans,” said Mary Jane Finnegan. “(My husband) Ray had a 100% disability, and his benefits stopped when he died. The outreach center helped me figure out how to access what I was entitled to through him.”

The outreach center is located on the grounds of the Green Mountain Vietnam Era Veterans Assistance Corporation (GMVEVAC) in Bennington, and is leased for $1 each year. The center is staffed by volunteers who served in Vietnam and want to help a younger generation of soldiers access what they are entitled to. The home helps all veterans, however, and provides vital amenities for homeless vets, a place for veterans to congregate, and ultimately a helping hand. The proceeds from Dot’s of Dover’s Veterans Day lunch will go toward the $13,000 budget for the upkeep of the center. The outreach center was instrumental in bringing the Moving Wall to Wilmington this summer as well.

Vermont was the first state to open a Vietnam veterans center following the conflict, and also opened the first hospital for individuals who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder related to their service. John Miner, president of the GMVEVAC, says that Vietnam veterans are taking the lead in helping all veterans, because help was something they didn’t receive when they came home.

“I belong to an organization that has a motto,” said Miner. “‘Never again will one generation of veterans abandon another.’ I live by that because we need to look out for veterans of the future.

“We know what they need to do to get what they’re entitled to. We had to wait 40 years, and we’re still fighting for ours.”

The outreach program began in 2007 and over the last two years has helped veterans and their families receive approximately $11 million in entitlements in Vermont and New Hampshire.

In August, Finnegan set up a country and western benefit concert for the outreach program at Memorial Hall called “Vets Rock.” The fundraiser brought in nearly $1,100 for the Bennington outreach center. Finnegan intends to continue her fundraising efforts for the program in memory of her husband, the generation he fought with, and all those who preceded and followed.

“These guys gave their lives to us,” said Finnegan. “Some are dying now from the aftermath of it all, and I think we should do what we can to give back to them.”
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