By Johnny Jackson
Roland Dudley Thornton, Sr., a 91-year-old veteran of World War II and the Korean War, is one of the more than 70,000 veterans living in the Southern Crescent.
On Thursday, the war veteran was honored for his humanity and service in the U.S. Army, as McDonough Mayor Billy Copeland dedicated the opening of the city's new Veterans Information and Referral Office.
"We hope that this office will be a benefit to heroes like Maj. Thornton," Copeland said.
The veterans office, formerly a vacant room inside McDonough's City Hall, was created to give assistance to the area's veterans as well as dependents of veterans who require contact with the various support agencies in the state and nation.
The office, which officially opened on June 10, consists of local volunteers who work as liaisons between citizens and the various veterans affairs offices around the country.
"We wanted to serve those who have done so much for all of us," Copeland said.
Office volunteers will refer veterans and their dependents to any department within the veterans state or federal support system, said Leslie Balog, assistant to Mayor Copeland. She said volunteers have direct contact with veterans affairs departments, including the Veterans Health Administration and the Georgia Department of Veterans Service.
"I think it's a win-win situation for everybody," said Mike Roby, the state Department of Veterans Service North Georgia area supervisor.
Roby said he believes the office will serve as a point of reference for many people who do not know what avenues to take to pursue veterans support or benefits. "It's a starting point for a lot of people that don't know," he said. "[Here] the veteran comes in and gets referred to the appropriate agency."
Mayor Copeland said he believes the office could help cut down on the amount of time and headache some veterans may have experienced while attempting to get proper assistance.
"I think the opening of this office will be very beneficial to the veterans of this area," said Mike Starnes, past commander of the American Legion Navy Fleet Reserve in Stockbridge.
Starnes joined several local dignitaries Thursday to witness the office's ribbon cutting.
"How much more convenient can you get than having veterans services right here in Henry County," he said. "Mayor Copeland did a great job in getting this service for our veterans."
Volunteers will be available at the office on Tuesdays, from 10 a.m. - noon, and Thursdays, from 1-3 p.m. The office is located at 136 Keys Ferry Street in downtown McDonough.