WHEELING - Many of America's military veterans have traveled thousands of miles in service to their country - so it seems fitting that after they return home, their country should go to them to assist them in obtaining the help they often need.
A U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Mobile Vet Center will make a stop in Wheeling Nov. 10 during the annual Veterans Day 10K Race, according to Michael Novotney, a readjustment counseling technician at the Wheeling Vet Center located along W.Va. 88 in Bethlehem. The 38-foot vehicle will be stationed in front of WesBanco Arena near the race's finish line.
The race begins at 8:30 a.m. at Bridge Street Middle School, with a banquet planned afterward at 11:30 a.m. inside WesBanco Arena.
A 38-foot Mobile Vet Center will be on hand at the Veterans Day 10K Race on Nov. 10 in Wheeling to assist veterans with counseling needs and provide information on VA benefits.
The Mobile Vet Center is one of about 70 similar vehicles that travel to thousands of communities and veterans' events around the country each year, providing information on VA benefits as well as suicide prevention referrals and counseling for various issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder, bereavement and marriage and family problems.
The VA established the fleet of mobile centers to make things easier for veterans who otherwise would have to travel long distances to receive services. Although that's not the case in Wheeling, Novotney said the mobile centers also provide a convenient way to reach a large number of veterans who will be concentrated in one place.
"They're more designed to go out to rural areas, but they're also a great promotional tool," he said.
Mobile Vet Centers are equipped with state-of-the-art communications equipment and space for confidential individual or small-group counseling sessions. The vehicles also are designed to provide aid in emergency situations, with beds, first aid kits, showers, defibrillators and more on board.
Late registration for the race will be available at Bridge Street Middle School from 5-7 p.m. Nov. 9, and also on Nov. 10 beginning at 7 a.m. and continuing until the start of the race.
Veterans Day 10K Race Director Hugh Stobbs said more than 500 people took part in the event last year. Participation has been trending upward each year, and Stobbs said registration is ahead of the 2011 pace.
"We have almost 90 veterans signed up already," he added, noting registration for veterans is free but quite a few choose to pay anyway.
Proceeds from the race after expenses are donated to the West Virginia Chapter of Paralyzed Veterans of America, an organization dedicated to helping seriously injured veterans live full and productive lives. Stobbs said the race has generated more than $36,000 for the organization over the past two years.
Stobbs said two distinguished veterans will speak during the day's festivities - including 89-year-old Hershel "Woody" Williams, who is West Virginia's only living Medal of Honor recipient, and Maj. Gen. Ed Mechenbier, a Morgantown native who was a prisoner of war for almost six years after his plane was shot down over Vietnam in 1967.