Patriot shooting team helps veterans adapt to civilian life

RaeLynn Ricarte

When a combat veteran returns home after a deployment, he or she faces many mental and emotional challenges, says Liv Stecker, veteran service coordinator for Tri-County Economic Development District.
She said some veterans grapple with having taken human lives, and others witnessed the horrific deaths of comrades and are either traumatized or have survivor's guilt.
“They went over there to do something the rest of us can't comprehend,” said Stecker. “They have to learn to live with the things that happened and that can take years or decades.”
In addition to inner turmoil, many veterans find that skills honed in the military, such as being a machine gunner, are rarely called for in the civilian world, so it can be difficult to nail down a job and get their lives stabilized.
All of these issues can be so overwhelming that an average of 20 veterans a day takes their own lives, according to the most recent report published by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs.
“My job is the make sure no vet falls through the cracks,” said Stecker, who is now rallying veterans so she can make a “warm handoff” when one of their own needs extra support.
Being actively involved with the Patriot Shooting Team in Colville since 2015 has led Stecker to see that “vets helping vets” is the best way to get that level of support in place.
“They have things to sort out and they do that best with each other,” she said.
The team is affiliated with the American
Freedom Fund, a national nonprofit that helps veterans through athletics, education, and advocacy. Stecker said younger veterans like to be on the go so the team is one way that AFF fulfills its mission on the local front.
On Saturday, Nov. 9, a fundraiser for the shooting team takes place at Northern Ales in Kettle Falls. The Steve Starkey Band will play from 7 to 10 p.m. and community members are invited to join veterans at the event for a good time that benefits a great cause.
Hired in May because of her years of work with veterans, Stecker has spent the last five months identifying gaps in the local service delivery system.
In October, she organized a vet summit that drew more than 45 people to the table to discuss service availability and identify areas of need.
Stecker is using information from the summit to redesign Tri-County's veteran services directory for the 5,004 veterans in Stevens, 828 in Ferry County and 1,543 in Pend Oreille County.
She hopes to have that work done by the end of the year, but says it may take longer to create a user-friendly version that provides information about where state and federal resources can be found, as well as regional transportation services, employment assistance, mental health counseling, housing and much more.
Stecker has enlisted the help of organizations that serve veterans, such as the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars, to get a network together that can meet any need that arises.
“I see myself as kind of a catchall for all the little odds and ends,” she said.
For several years, Stecker has maintained the Big Voice blog and Facebook page out of her desire to connect vets with opportunities and resources, and educate people about the true meaning of sacrifice.
She said the shooting team brings together veterans of different eras and that helps them find common ground and understanding.
“We need to build a network so if someone is having trouble, we can match them up with a mentor,” she said.

Find more on this story in the Nov. 6 issue of The Statesman-Examiner.