Lonnie Myers, standing next to a sign for the VA Community Based Outpatient Clinic, devotes much of his time to helping veterans. The retired U.S. Marine colonel is an active member of the advisory board of the Community Based Outpatient VA Clinic in La Grande. (PHIL BULLOCK/The Observer)
Lonnie Myers extending meaningful support to veterans
Miles of red tape often are insurmountable roadblocks for military veterans seeking health care from the Veterans Administration.
The red-tape roadblocks are being hurdled, however, by many local veterans with the assistance of people like Lonnie Myers of La Grande. Myers helps local veterans slice through the government’s often overwhelming maze of rules, regulations and paperwork like a machete.
Myers is an active member of the advisory board of the Community Based Outpatient VA Clinic in La Grande. The board was founded in 2010, and today it is continuing to grow as it addresses an increasing number of health care issues affecting veterans in Union and Wallowa counties.
Myers has been a member of the board since its creation, working to help veterans have access to the medical services provided by the VA.
“We want to be a voice for them in their health care,” said Myers, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps for 27 years, advancing to the rank of colonel. “Sometimes getting it means you have go through a small wicket (of bureaucratic regulations).”
The advisory board Myers is a member of is also working hard to make sure that local veterans have the transportation needed to travel to VA clinics in La Grande; Boise, Idaho; Walla Walla, Wash.; and Portland.
Mark Gish of La Grande, who also served in the U.S. Marine Corps, marvels at how conscientiously Myers works to help veterans and many others in the community.
“He is just inspired to help people any way he can,” Gish said.
Gish noted that Myers has a strong interest in helping young veterans now returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Ken McCormack of La Grande, who also served in the Marine Corps, believes Myers’ concern for young veterans reflects his days as a Marine colonel.
“Once a Marine, always a Marine,” said McCormack, a member of advisory board for the Community Based Outpatient Clinic.
Myers, ever calm, humble and reassuring, also stands up for fallen veterans. He is a member of Patriot Guard Riders of America, a veterans organization more than 200,000 strong. The Patriot Guard Riders are best known for the funerals of veterans they attend on motorcycles. The Patriot Riders escort the families of veterans and military personnel who have died to the burial site and then serve as a protective shield, guarding them against the taunts of people who come to military funerals to protest the policies and laws of the United States government and the military.
Myers has attended about 10 funerals a year as a Patriot Guard Rider for the past decade. He is always accompanied by many other Patriot Guard Riders.
“We want to honor those who have fallen,” said Myers, the commander of La Grande VFW Post 43.
The scope of Myers service work extends past veterans for he also is a volunteer for Home Care Services Home Health and Hospice. The program focuses on meeting the needs of the terminally ill, including those who have no family in the area. Myers spends hours each week providing emotional support and reassurance for people served by the program.
He thinks nothing of the many hours he spends each week reaching out to those who need assistance.
“I’ve been so blessed, I owe so much to so many people,” said Myers, who also is a volunteer at Our Lady of the Valley Catholic Church and earlier taught social studies at La Grande Middle School for 12 years.
Myers who does his volunteer work with major help from his wife, Jacquelyn, stresses that he is just one of many in the community reaching out to veterans now. He said community support for veterans is on the upswing since there is a heightened awareness of their needs because of the many returning after serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“This is a good time to be a veteran,” Myers said.