HERMISTON — As Sue Long-Hosek watched veterans bond with each other after a golf fundraiser last year, she knew she wanted to create more opportunities like the one unfolding before her eyes.
Long-Hosek’s first husband was a Vietnam veteran who struggled with severe post-traumatic stress disorder from the time he returned home up to when he took his own life in 2014. Afterward, she tried to do what she could to help veterans like him by hosting golf tournament fundraisers to benefit national veterans organizations and the local American Legion.
“That’s why this is a passion of mine,” she said. “That’s why I want to help in any way I can.”
She and her current husband, Ron Hosek, have started the Conrad Skinner Veterans Memorial Program, with the goal of acting as a “stopgap” for veterans and their families in Umatilla, Morrow and Union counties if they have needs that aren’t being met by other organizations. Their mission statement says they plan to provide “opportunities and support for Veterans and their families in time of crisis or need.”
“This is not in conjunction with the VA, it is not to take the place of the VA, but it is kind of a supplement for things that the VA might not be able to address on an immediate basis,” Long-Hosek said.
They will announce specific services they have in mind at a Veterans Appreciation Dinner cosponsored by the new nonprofit, American Legion Post #37, Greater Hermiston Area Chamber of Commerce and Hermiston parks and recreation department.
The dinner is on Sunday, Oct. 20 at 3 p.m. at the Hermiston Community Center, 415 S. Highway 395. It is free for all veterans and their immediate family, and community members who wish to attend and show their appreciation for veterans are asked to make a donation in an amount of their choosing. Everyone planning to attend is asked to RSVP to Hermiston Parks and Recreation, 541-667-5018 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Conrad Skinner Veterans Memorial Program is run by a board of 11 people, most of which are veterans or their spouses. It is a 501©3 nonprofit that accepts tax-deductible contributions.
Conrad Skinner grew up in Hermiston and served in the United States Marine Corps before taking his own life in April at age 23. Hosek said two of Skinner’s relatives sit on the nonprofit’s board, and he and his wife met with Skinner’s parents and grandparents to get their blessing before dedicating the project to his memory.
“We are losing 20 to 22 veterans a day to PTSD and suicide,” Hosek said.
He said he and Long-Hosek and other members of the board want to reduce those numbers locally, and also support family members who may be at a loss to know how to deal with their love one’s struggles. Hosek said they already have books they can loan out to help children understand that “mom or dad are not angry at them, it’s an illness.”
Long-Hosek said she is open to suggestions for what needs are not being met elsewhere, and how they can best help veterans with their limited resources.