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Utah veterans find love, support from local communities

Posted at 5:12 PM, Nov 10, 2023

GUNNISON, Utah — Students at Gunnison Valley Elementary sang patriotic songs at their annual Veterans Day program Friday to thank those who serve.

LIST: Free Utah fun for veterans and families on Veteran's Day

"Oh, we love veterans and getting to celebrate our veterans; the heroes," said third-grade teacher Ronda Mattson.

Mattson loves what the program does for their kids, particularly in the weeks leading up to the event when the students practice, and many write their own personal tributes to veterans in their family.

"I love when they’re writing the notes to their parents," she said. "I almost just have to cry because they love their parents and are so proud of their service and what they’ve done for our country."

It was a light in the day for the vets who attended and got personal thank yous and a handshake from every single third-grader in the school.

"It’s a hard feeling to describe. Each one comes and shakes your hand and you just feel that gratitude," explained Taylor Mellor, who currently serves in the Utah National Guard. "We can’t do it without the support and communities like this and small towns are awesome."

Taylor’s wife, Melissa, says tributes like these mean a lot to their families.

"I just want people to know that veterans do more than people think they do for our country," she said.

LIST: Veteran's Day events, turkey trots and MORE happening this weekend across Utah!

The program and others are a reminder from the state that there are so many resources available to help our veterans.

"A lot of people think, why aren’t we doing more? Why aren’t we reaching out to our veterans? And in reality, there are so many groups, so many people who are trying to reach them, trying to help them," said Taylor Ricks with the Utah Department of Veterans and Military Affairs. "And we know this just from working with veterans that sometimes they’re a very humble group. They don’t really seek out a lot of that help and if they do seek it out they don’t quite know where to look."

Ricks says veterans you can find resources on all levels: federal, local, state, and his department is kind of a connecting point that is happy to help.

"They’re trained to work with the VA and get you the benefits you need and point you in the right direction," said Ricks.

The reality and issues so many veterans face, including depression, suicide, unemployment and homelessness, have been a challenge for a long time but officials say they have seen some good progress.

Combating the problem locally is a new program called “Live on Utah,” geared directly toward recognizing warning signs and connecting veterans and their families to critical help.

"Whether it be through us and finding benefits and resources that are built for you and for your service, or connecting through fellow veterans and people who have gone through similar things. That connection is the biggest piece," said Ricks. "We just encourage veterans and our entire community to connect this weekend."