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Connecting Veterans in Camaraderie

In a series of Q&A’s, IAVA is sharing what #VetsRising means, and is, to our members. Meet Robert Prah, a U.S. Army veteran who resides in Smithton, PA.

What brought you to IAVA?
I wanted to be part of something bigger. I wanted to find a way to personally give back and continue to help our post-9/11 veterans locally, through empowering and uniting each other. I believe in everything IAVA stands for and all that they do for us. One of the most encouraging pieces in helping IAVA is that the full-time staff is incredibly resourceful and amazing to work with. Their dedication and enthusiasm is what truly drives me to do more for our local veterans.

Also, my fiancée is soon to return from Afghanistan and, through IAVA, together we can continue to give back to other veterans just as those before us have done. Prior to her deployment, she attended several VetTogether events with me. Both of our families have a history of military service and we are proud that IAVA strives to create a country that honors and supports veterans of all generations. Furthermore, the advocacy IAVA brings to the table to represent all post-9/11 veterans is extremely critical. Everything from the Clay Hunt SAV Act to the changes in the GI Bill, IAVA is there advocating for each and every one of us.

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For more than a year, you’ve hosted VetTogethers on a consistent rotation. Did that approach feel important as you were planning your efforts?
I believe in consistency. Whether we have six veterans or 20 veterans, the fact that the event is held and people know we host them every month is what is important to me. Awareness for our events in the community is also critical to our approach of VetTogethers. We typically have an informal gathering of veterans from our campus and local community. Since I work full-time at a university, I see how difficult it is for veterans to reintegrate and to connect with other veterans. This is just one way for them to connect with one another and (re)-build camaraderie. At our recent VetTogether in February, one of our female Marine Corps veterans was talking about her experiences as a helo mechanic. A veteran who was nearby overheard the conversation and they began to talk about training and where they’ve been in the Corps.

Through your work at California University of Pennsylvania you’ve been able to connect your students on campus with the efforts of IAVA and many other veterans organizations. How have these resources benefitted your student veterans?
The greatest feeling for me is to see or hear that a veteran connected with other veterans through one of our VetTogethers. Generally, we have about 12 to 15 people attend our events. I typically leave the event after an hour, however when I leave, there are a lot of laughs and stories. I absolutely love when I see two veterans who didn’t know one another create a friendship or relationship after meeting at a VetTogether. With more than 150 veterans and servicemembers at our university, it happens a lot. This is what keeps me going with the continued VetTogethers and other outreach events.

What’s the best thing you’ve heard from someone since you’ve been involved with IAVA?
That’s a very difficult question! It’s hard for me to pinpoint the “best” thing, however, I would probably say one of the most rewarding was when a female veteran told me she felt comfortable going to our other veterans events. After a VetTogether, she realized there are others “like her” here and others who support and value our veterans in the community.

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