Support and Success: Veterans Lodge

Oct 16, 2023 | Businesses, Communities, DeFuniak Springs, Walton & Beyond

Veterans in a group setting.

Veterans Lodge will be a place where America’s veterans thrive

By Wendy O. Dixon

Military veterans are facing a crisis of challenges upon returning home, many with physical, financial and emotional needs. A new complex set to begin construction soon will be a welcome addition to DeFuniak Springs. Veterans Lodge will offer a variety of life-saving services to returning servicemen and women.

Julie Smith has witnessed the trials many military families go through — feeling abandoned by bureaucracy, and getting few resources and support. “The more questions I asked, the more questions I had,” says Julie, CEO and founder of Veterans Lodge. “I knew there was a huge problem when strangers began calling me asking for help.”

Seeing the need for veteran care was going largely unmet, Julie interviewed hundreds of vets, asking about their needs and ideas on how to heal returning veterans. “For many, the battle is not over when service to country ends,” Julie adds. “The stress of everyday life continues to take its toll, making the transition from military life extremely difficult, if not impossible.” She conceived Veterans Lodge as an environment where veterans can safely begin transitioning back to civilian life.

Veterans Lodge’s holistic approach will seek to understand the mindset and individual needs of each hero to create a road map for all subsequent care. The lodge offers personalized healthcare, education, job training, lodging and rehabilitation. Workforce and reintegration training are critical to veteran rehabilitation. The lodge will provide vocational training with marketable skills while collaborating with companies and education programs.

With an estimated 267,000 veterans in the region, and a demand for services for about 14,000, Veterans Lodge plans to start servicing 120 vets per day and grow to 300 per day. “We want to help them emotionally, spiritually and financially,” says Julie.

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