Friday, March 4, 2011

Landover resident starts support group for area veterans
By Natalie McGill
The Gazette
Thursday, March 3, 2011

In the 1960s, so many of Jerry Staggs' neighbors went to war in Vietnam that he said the conflict just about cleaned out the young male population of Fairmount Heights in those days. And the soldiers who returned often did not come home with a clean bill of health, said Staggs, an Army veteran who served in Vietnam from 1967 to 1970.

To aid other area veterans who might be suffering the ill effects of combat, Staggs, 63, of Landover launched the Fairmont Heights Veterans Association in October 2009. The group is designed to act as a resource and support group for local veterans, Staggs said.

Staggs, a 1966 graduate of Fairmont Heights High School, said about 95 percent of the group's 28 members are Fairmont Heights graduates, adding that it began with four members and spread through word of mouth. The group holds it meetings mostly to share information on how veterans can receive health benefits through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

"I just had a dream," said Staggs, who suffers from hypertension as a result of post-traumatic stress disorder. "I just said, we have to do something for the other veterans."

The group meets at 2 p.m. monthly on the last Saturday at the Glenarden American Legion Post #275, 8201 Martin Luther King Jr. Highway. Staggs said the group uses the phrase "pass it on," meaning to share any information that might help as many veterans as possible.

Silver Spring resident Michael Black, 65, a 1963 Fairmont Heights graduate, said the group has one member who fought in the ongoing war in Iraq but that most are in their 50s, 60s and 70s and served in conflicts such as the Korean and Vietnam wars.

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