HOT SULPHUR SPRINGS - A former county commissioner has taken the job of Grand County's Veterans Service Officer.
Duane Dailey, who served as commissioner from 1999 to 2007, recently filled the position previously held by Dave Jones, who has since retired.
An Army veteran who served two years during the Vietnam War away from combat, Dailey has been committed to veterans throughout his life. Upon his return to Grand County after his service, he worked with Hal O'Leary helping amputee and blind veterans learn to ski in the fledgling organization that eventually became the National Sports Center for the Disabled.
And for 42 years, Dailey has been an active member of the American Legion, the largest veterans group in the U.S. Having held various leadership roles in the organization, he most recently served as veteran service officer for Post 45 American Legion in Kremmling.
Dailey is following in the footsteps of his father Harold Buck Dailey, a World War II veteran, who was employed as Grand County's veteran service officer for nearly two decades starting in the mid-1960s.
Dailey comes from a lineage of military men. According to him, his great uncles served in the Civil War and Spanish American War, his grandfather served in World War II, and his brother Don Dailey spent a career in the Army.
"I have a passion for veterans," Dailey said. "I understand the pitfalls they face. At times they are the most underappreciated and misunderstood people."
He credits the Grand County commissioners for supporting a full-time veteran affairs office for "a very special population."
"The county commissioners have made a tremendous commitment to making sure the Grand County veterans are well taken care of," Dailey said.
He also credits Jones for the work he did in building up the program. "Dave Jones did a tremendous outreach," Dailey said. The office is maintaining just short of 100 active files of individuals who have sought information and direction from the veteran office under Jones' management, Dailey said.
"The main issues (veterans) face here is remoteness," Dailey said. "They have to travel a long way for health care." Veterans face challenges navigating a complex system of benefits.
Some returning from war may suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and may need help in seeking mental health services. Veterans also may have difficulty in finding meaningful jobs in the mountain community, Dailey said.
The veteran office provides assistance in finding benefits and medical compensation to which veterans are entitled as well as survivor benefits. The office can also assist families upon a death of a veteran in seeking out death benefits, such as grave markers, flags for a funeral and compensation for burial fees.
According to Dailey, another service the office provides is transporting veterans in-need to Denver or Grand Junction for medical care at veteran facilities.
"Truly this job is to advocate for the veteran," Dailey said.