Left to right: Robert Bancroft of Preble Street’s Veterans Housing Services, veterans advocate Deb Shangraw, Mayor Mike Sanphy, Arty Ledoux, American Legion Post 62 Commander Gary York and Post 197 Commander Haze McDougal pose at Westbrook City Hall. Chance Viles/American Journal

WESTBROOK — Arty Ledoux, operations manager for the Department of Public Works and a Marine Corps veteran, has received his certification and will be Westbrook’s own municipal veteran services officer.

He plans to have the local VSO office fully functional by the end of the year.

The VSO position exists at the state level in Maine, but until now, no community has created an officer position at the municipal level to facilitate the benefit process for veterans. That process can be daunting, Ledoux said.

“I come from a long line of veterans, I am one, my brother is, my father was one, my son is currently serving as well as my (son-in-law),” he said.

Ledoux used his own money and time to fly to Cleveland, Ohio, to get certified by the U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs. He will fit the role into his Public Works schedule and is not taking any additional wages. He’s now working to get the office up and running.

“My vision is for the office to be more than a pamphlet rack,” he said.

The hat and berets of York, McDougal and Ledoux with the Westbrook logo. Chance Viles/American Journal

He and city officials are tentatively looking at space in the Community Center on Bridge Street as the home base for the VSO office.

To start, the office will serve only veterans living in Westbrook, but Mayor Mike Sanphy hopes to expand offerings to other veterans after the role is established.

“A lot of these veterans were hurt mentally or physically, and the paperwork for benefits is so difficult they don’t even do it, and these are benefits they earned,” Sanphy said.

The exact number of veterans in Westbrook is unclear, and one of Ledoux’s first goals is to find out.  The Maine Homeless Veteran Action Committee estimates just over 100 homeless veterans live in the state.

“The need for this is huge,” American Legion Post 62 Commander Gary York said. “Getting benefits is hard and people don’t know what is out there for them.”

While Ledoux overcame his first hurdle in getting the certification, he says there is still plenty to learn.

“I have to get the Veteran Association software, I have to get some manuals and learn a bit more,” Ledoux said. “My hope is to have this office up and fully functional by 2020, and my vision is to be able to hand off a well-oiled office to whoever is next.”

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