(In light of our relationship and appreciation for Operation Finally Home, we wanted to post this beautiful segment from News Channel 5. Originally posted on Newschannel5.com on October 21, 2015. Click HERE
for the article and an accompanying video.)
GREENBRIER, Tenn. - Veteran Service Officer of Robertson County has gone so far above and beyond his job title that he has helped countless Veterans adjust to life after combat and navigate the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Like many Vietnam veterans, Wayne Dugger's war stories aren't pretty.
“Our intelligence told us we'd hit a reinforced platoon. We hit a 700 guy battalion instead. It turned out to be a particularly nasty day. We lost a lot of good men,” said Dugger, as he recounted one of his many stories.
He was awarded a Purple Heart for his service that day as a Platoon Sargent with the 101st Airborne, but at the time not much of anything else.
“They told us 'go home, hang your uniform up and don't even put it on your job application' that's how bad it was then,” said Dugger.
Little did Wayne know how that moment would shape his life decades later when other young men and women headed off to war.
He first persuaded officials in Robertson County to fill the then vacant position of Veteran Service Officer. A position every TN county has a job designed to help vets navigate the VA.
However, he didn’t know he'd be the one to fill it for several years, and his work paid off.
“When I first started trying to help the vets here, the veterans in Robertson County were receiving a little over $1.5 million a year from the VA,” said Dugger. “Now, it's somewhere over $16 million a year.”
It only took one phone call to change his battle plan. A veteran called the American Legion Hall ready to take his own life.
“He was so distraught, so depressed for one simple thing. He couldn't feed his family,” said Dugger. “Once I got him to start making a list of what he needed, I asked him if he knew where the Kroger in Springfield was. He said he did, and I said I'll meet you there in an hour.”
It was that encounter that made Wayne realized it wasn't just about navigating through the bureaucracy, more needed to be done to meet the basic human needs of many veterans.
So he rallied the troops bringing together several military organizations and charities and getting everyone to march in the same direction.
“If a Veteran comes in here, and we know he's a veteran and he needs help we're gonna help him,” said Dugger.
No one's keeping track of how many vets have been helped. To them, the number isn't really what matters, and Wayne isn't collecting a paycheck for the long days he puts in. “It is a pure passion driven endeavor,” he said.
For his service, and the many years of work he’s done after returning home, he was honored by NewsChannel 5 and Operation Finally Home with a $500 gift.
Yet, to Dugger, he sees it as an answer to a question decades in the making.
“I wondered a long time why so many of our guys got killed and I didn't, and I think I found that”
Wayne and his team do all of this out of a tiny American Legion Hall in Greenbrier, proof you don't need a lot of space or things to make a big difference.