Veterans and families get together in Ely

by Jessica Kellogg,
U.S. Navy, 2013-2017

Camaraderie. Relaxation. Reconnection.
These were the themes at the heart of the third annual Veterans Retreat hosted by United for Veterans at Veterans on the Lake.
With a larger than average veteran population per capita throughout the Iron Range, United for Veterans, a United Way program, was created specifically to support area veterans from all generations.
Dedicated to filling critical service gaps for veterans and their families, United for Veterans works to create an environment of honor and respect for Northeastern Minnesota Veterans and develop opportunities, support those in need, and empower veterans.
One such initiative is the annual Veterans Retreat. For three days, veterans from across the Iron Range, and their families gathered at Fall Lake as a way to meet and connect with other veteran families, learn about local resources, and really just relax and have fun.
“This retreat is such a great opportunity to meet fellow veterans, especially fellow women veterans,” said Shelia Kaspari, U. S. Navy, 1988-1992, highlighting a feeling shared by many.
“I love being able to share stories about our military experiences. I always leave these retreats feeling so refreshed.”
In addition to information sessions about programs like Vets Center, free and confidential mental health services, and the United Way Crisis Fund, participants had plenty of free time to enjoy recreational activities on and around Fall Lake and explore Ely’s offerings.
“It’s great to see so many people here, this is our largest retreat turn out yet,” said Paul Plombon of Hibbing. Plombon served in the U.S. Navy 1999-2005 and sits on the United for Veterans board.
“It’s been great to get together and make new friends.”
When many veterans leave military service, they often experience a sense of loss.
Loss of routine, loss of friends, loss of purpose. This retreat helps fill that gap by building a friendly network between area veterans and giving these veterans an opportunity to once again have a sense of purpose by getting involved in programs to help fellow veterans.
United for Veterans is largely funded through Rampage on the Ridge, a 5K extreme obstacle course run held at Giants Ridge, and supports a number of other programs, including a similar retreat in the spring for women veterans.
Recently there was a homeless Ely area veteran, United for Veterans was able to arrange for temporary lodging until he was able to make more permanent arrangements.
United for Veterans has partners with Speare Psychological Services to provide free and confidential mental health services to any veteran or servicemember.
They have also established a resource and study center for veterans at the Hibbing Community College.
Recently, United for Veterans provided Veterans on the Lake with a $10,000 dollar grant to be used to sponsor veterans who may not otherwise be able to afford to stay at the resort.
For more information about United for Veterans, please visit https://www.unitedwaynemn.org/united-veterans