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VSO has two new, yet very familiar, faces in the office

By Staff | Nov 13, 2016

Jenna?Schmidtke,left, and Ryan Bromeland, right, are the two new faces in the Veterans Service Office located at the Blue Earth Ag Center.

There are two familiar faces sitting in the Veterans Service Office located in Blue Earth’s Ag Center who have joined Veterans Service Officer Dave Hanson. Their names are Ryan Bromeland, 32, and Jenna Schmidtke, 30.

Both are Blue Earth Area High School graduates, and both are Army veterans who are now serving other veterans.

“It’s a huge passion of mine,” says assistant Veteran Service Officer Bromeland. “You have no idea how great it feels to know that I get to serve other vets on a daily basis.”

He and Schmidtke just recently started at the office within the past few months to help Hanson meet the needs of the veterans in Faribault County. Both began working at the office within the same week. When the Faribault County Register visited their office, they were preparing for their open house, which took place on Nov. 10 from 8 to 11 a.m.

Schmidtke, the office’s administrative assistant and a veteran specialist, says she, too, understands, and is excited about, the importance of her new position.

Bromeland and Schmidtke prepare boxes for ‘Operation: Send a Smile.'

Both Bromeland and Schmidtke say they are privileged to be able to be advocates for other veterans and their families. They are able to help with disability issues, pension processes, and work with the VA?hospitals, but it is so much more than that, they add.

Both new members of the Veterans Service Office know exactly what veterans have been facing both recently and with past wars such as World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War.

“We are seeing a huge decrease in our WWII veteran population, and our veterans from the Vietnam War are also facing an entirely new battle with their injuries and physical responses to being exposed to things like Agent Orange,” says Schmidtke.

Offices for Veterans Services like the one in Blue Earth started shortly after the Civil War, but it was not until the Vietnam War these offices became more prevalent and accessible to vets.

“For a long time, there was little to no reintegration for our veterans,” says Bromeland. “Including Jenna and myself. When we came home, once our boots touched American soil, we were given a brief on what we had to do and what we couldn’t do, and we were sent on our way.”

Dave Hanson talking with a visitor at the Veterans Service Office open house.

Both veterans say they have seen rising and falling trends of support for veterans throughout the span of time. When vets came home from WWII, they were welcomed with open arms and happy hearts. The Vietnam War? Not so much. And now, with veterans returning from Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran, these veterans are seeing less and less of a welcomed homecoming.

“I think we have become so accustomed to wars and foreign conflicts that the popularity of welcoming veterans back home has not been as prevalent or as noticeable as it once was, and our vets notice,” says Schmidtke.

That is why Bromeland and Schmidtke are doing what they are doing. They are here to provide a number of services to the veterans of all of Faribault County.

The services provided are free to the area’s veterans, and as previously mentioned, it is not just for basic needs of veterans. The Veterans Service Office offers much more, such as advocacy, different forms of outreach and support.

“We are seeing that our newer veterans are facing a whole new list of struggles. We are here to help all of our veterans find different services and reach out operations that show our veterans that they are not alone when they come home and begin the civilian life once again,” says Bromeland, who is involved in a number of veteran-based groups such as the Combat Veteran’s Motorcycle Association, 23 to Zero, a suicide prevention group for veterans, the American Legion, the DAV, the VFW and Wounded Warrior.

Currently, the two new Veteran’s Service Office employees have been preparing to send a large number of care packages to active members of the military through a program called “Operation Send a Smile,” as well as preparing for other tasks ahead of them.

When they are not at work, both have families to come home to. Bromeland has a wife, Vanessa, and three children; Brady, 14, Hayden, 9, and Harper, 3. Schmidtke has two sons of her own, as well, Jaxson, 7, and Jason, 4.

Both veterans say it is their families who have been pillars of strength for them, but they, too, like other families of veterans, have a special understanding of the roles Schmidtke and Bromeland have played in their country’s history.

“I was still in active duty when I had Jaxson,” says Schmidtke. “He’s my little patriot born on Sept. 11, and I realized quickly as much as I wanted to be the best NCO and medic in the Army and the best mom I could possibly be, I couldn’t do both. I miss being a soldier, but life changes when you become a parent.”

“It is a fine line for a veteran and a parent,” says Bromeland. “It is never going to be one thing over the other. Yes, you are a dad, and yes you are a veteran. Sometimes, veterans come before family, and sometimes family comes before veterans. It’s just a matter of making the two merge as best as you can.”

For both veterans, they are honored to be able to give back to their brothers and sisters who have seen what not all civilians have. They understand the needs of veterans, their families, and communities because they, themselves, have experienced things first hand.

Whether a veteran needs an advocate to listen to and understand their struggles with PTSD, medical concerns, or just want someone to talk to, there are two proud American veterans who are here, right at home, and willing to serve their community and country again.