Knoxville News Sentinel: Rally Point 2012 aims to connect veterans with assistance

Apr 4, 2012

Thomas DeHoog knows firsthand the struggles that a U.S. military veteran faces when returning from service.


DeHoog had served 24 years in the Army as a military policeman and as a war dog trainer in the U.S., Korea and Germany.


But when he returned stateside and retired from the Army, DeHoog in the 1990s began experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder and would awaken in the middle of the night with horrible nightmares and violent episodes.


He's since been able to combat the disorder and, although it will never "go away," DeHoog said he's successfully assimilated and now works at the East Tennessee Military Affairs Council in Knoxville.


On Wednesday, DeHoog was one of about 600 attendees at Rally Point 2012, a gathering at the Jacob Building in Chilhowee Park that aimed to connect veterans and their families with providers of services.


DeHoog spoke highly of the impact that such an event can have on a veteran.


"The importance of this Rally Point event is critical for veterans," especially those returning from dangerous and intense assignments, he said. "These people need time to get back in touch with their communities and reintegrate back into society, and this event can assist people in getting the proper help."


Rally Point featured 40 organizations that provide veterans with a number of resources, including vocational rehabilitation, education, employment, and mental health and housing services, and business loans.


U.S. Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero and Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett started the event to help veterans and their families connect with local resources that they may not have previously known about.


Rhonda Smithson, lead case worker for Corker, praised the participating organizations.


"There are some wonderful resources here today, and I hope that the word gets out to the veterans that there is help for them," she said. "This event is about pulling the entire veteran community together and show them that they have support."


One of the attendees, former Navy corpsman and medic George "Rick" Hillegas, isan associate dean at South College's School of Physician Assistant Studies. Hillegas said he would like to see more events such as Rally Point — and more aid and support for veterans from the federal government.


"The number of people returning from active duty with issues such as post-traumatic stress need serious help, and the government is simply not taking care of our vets," said Hillegas.


"One percent of the population protects the other 99 percent, and these people need help adjusting and decompressing once they are done serving. It's nice to see some of the vendors here are looking to do that."

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