(Photo by Richard Irby)
The office in the Federal Building on the Salem Square, has been open on Tuesdays and Thursdays in recent years, but, starting on Monday, Jan. 28, the office is now open on Mondays and Tuesdays from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
The change in office hours coincides with a change in who is running the office.
"I retired at the first of the year," said Ron Beeching of Salem, who has served as the Service Officer for the past five years.
Beeching's retirement can really begin now, with the appointment of Thomas Lemon of Salem to replace him.
According to Beeching, the service officer helps Fulton County veterans apply for pension benefits, or helps a surviving spouse apply for benefits at the death of a veteran.
"A lot of people who come in know they qualify for benefits, but don't really know how to go about applying for them. I helped them get the right forms filled out, so an application for benefits could be processed," Beeching explained.
The service officer also can help coordinate medical treatment and appointments with V-A hospitals.
"Fulton County does not have the funding to pay for transportation to a V-A hospital, but I helped veterans get appointments and information about medical treatment," Beeching said. He added that the Mountain Home Veterans Center does have a van, and local veterans can sometimes arrange to get a ride on it, if they face a problem with transportation.
"I have really enjoyed running the Veterans Service Office," Beeching said. "I have met a lot of people and helped a lot of people over the years, and it has been a very positive experience. I feel like Mr. Lemon will do a good job."
Thomas Lemon retired from the Navy in 1986, after 23 years of service. After leaving the military, Lemon worked for years at the Town and Country Supermarket at Salem and, later, at Ozark Foods in Mountain Home.
When asked how he has prepared for the job of service officer, Lemon laughed and said, "I'll be learning through OJT -- on the job training, and I've got a lot to learn."
Recalling his early days running the office, Beeching said he too learned just by finding out what people needed as they came into the office, although his experience working in personnel offices in the military gave him a background in dealing with paperwork and "red tape."
"The Department of Veterans Affairs in Little Rock is also a good source of information," Beeching said. "They've got a staff of people who have worked with veterans for years, and they are very good to support us, when we have questions."
Beeching praised County Judge Charles Willett for the support he has shown to veterans and the veterans office during his years on the job.
From what he has seen so far, Lemon said most of the job appears to entail knowing about veterans' benefits and filling out forms to help them get services they need.
"I'm looking forward to helping fellow veterans," Lemon said.
On Monday, Jan. 28, Lemon's first day on the job, Beeching was in the office to help him get off to a smooth start.