Veteran care: New City of Lawrence official focuses on helping former service members


With its long history as a military town, the City of Lawrence has many veterans living in and near the community. One of the city’s newest employees — combat veteran and U.S. Army Reserve Battalion Commander Matthew Hall — will lead a new effort to reach out to those veterans and make sure they’re getting the services they’re entitled to receive.

Hall’s military service spans 32 years.

“I love it,” he said. “I love the people — I love the taking-care-of-each-other aspect of it.”

In his new job as the City of Lawrence’s first Military Veterans’ Liaison, Hall will continue the taking-care-of-each-other tradition on a communitywide scale. Lawrence’s vibrant veterans community means many services already exist, he said — his job will be to make sure veterans are able to access those services.

“You just need to connect veterans to resources, connect organizations to veterans,” he said. “One of the strangest problems we run into in the veteran philanthropy area is that we want to help all these veterans that need the assistance. The problem is, we don’t do marketing and we don’t connect and we don’t find them. And so, they can’t help the veterans that they want to help. That’s one of those things where we can help the businesses in the City of Lawrence, the nonprofits, the veteran entities in the City of Lawrence connect to those veterans.”

Hall had similar responsibilities as director of veterans services for the City of Indianapolis. At the time, that, too, was a brand-new position.

“I spent a lot of time figuring out what the position should be and how to create a position,” he said. “The nice thing about being with the City of Lawrence is that I’ve had that experience.”

Part of Hall’s new job will be figuring out how to connect with veterans who might be under the radar and unaware that services are available. Hall said the city has set up a special email account, [email protected], and anyone can call the mayor’s office for information at 317-545-6191. Beyond that, Hall said he’s considering options.

“Is it a mailing campaign? Is it a billboard campaign? Is it — what is it?” he said. “That’s what we’re going to talk to the community about and start getting some ideas and make this kind of a living document to where we can always take new ideas on how to reach out and connect to veterans in our community.”

Hall said he plans to reach out to local veterans groups in hopes of getting ideas straight from the source.

“Probably this summer, we’re going to invite some of the local veterans, veteran leaders here in the City of Lawrence to come together and talk about what the city needs this position to be,” he said. “We have two great VFW posts, we have the American Legion state headquarters, we have a lot of great veterans that do a lot of great things that live within our City of Lawrence. And so, instead of telling them what we’re going to do, let’s invite them and get some input as to what they’re seeing in their community.”

Because of its military history as the home of the former Fort Benjamin Harrison base, Hall said it’s likely that a larger concentration of veterans lives in Lawrence. But, he said, the exact numbers aren’t clear — there isn’t truly reliable data on how many veterans live in any particular area.

“We have the (Veterans Administration) data, but the VA says that they only touch between 40 to 60 percent of veterans,” he said. “So, only about half of the people that are actually veterans are actually registered with the VA. And then there’s also the question of a definition of a veteran, which blows my mind. Some people, especially from the Cold War era, don’t think that they are a veteran because they didn’t deploy.”

Hall said that, in Indiana, if someone has signed up for military service, they count as a veteran once they are no longer serving, no matter how long or short that service might be.

“So, anybody who signs up, if they raise their right hand and went through the oath of office and walked out and tripped on a curb and now couldn’t (serve), well, they’re still considered a veteran because they raised their right hand and signed the paper.”

And anyone who signed that paper is eligible for services.

For more information, veterans and others can reach out to [email protected].

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New City of Lawrence Military Veterans’ Liaison Matthew Hall first enlisted with his parent’s permission when he was 17 years old. (Photo courtesy of Matthew Hall)

A long military career

The new City of Lawrence Military Veterans’ Liaison Matthew Hall wasn’t old enough to sign up on his own when he first enlisted.

“I actually had to have my parents sign for me, because I was 17,” he said.

That was 1989, he said, and during his time in the military, Hall served as an electrician on Apache helicopters, was a drill sergeant, became an officer and deployed twice to Afghanistan — first in 2007 and again in 2009.

Hall also has been a company commander and later worked at Camp Atterbury, which provides training and support for troops. His duties there included helping soldiers when they returned from deployment.

“There was a lot of individual care for people and helping them — everything from knee surgeries and back surgeries to mental and emotional issues to legal issues,” he said. “Whatever we could do to make soldiers whole when they had been overseas for a period of time and now were coming back and going home, we wanted to make sure that we got them home in the best shape as possible.”