Veterans groups gather at Currier for annual summit

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Jay Ruais Currier Art
Jay Ruais on April 16, 2024. Photo/Andrew Sylvia

MANCHESTER, N.H. – The Currier Museum of Art was the scene on Tuesday as the New Hampshire-based Swim With A Mission (SWAM) gathered veterans and veterans’ support groups from across the state for the Fourth Annual New Hampshire Veterans Summit.

Established with one event in 2017 at Newfound Lake, SWAM grew to not only help New Hampshire’s veteran community, but also help connect other groups around New Hampshire helping veterans. According to SWAM co-founder Phil Taub, that has become a key part of the organization’s focus on helping veterans battling with mental health issues.

“It’s a complex journey because there isn’t just one thing that heals veterans. So, getting all of these organizations together is crucial. Take for example finding a veteran a service dog. In the past, if a veteran did not have a job, an organization providing service dogs might tell the veteran to find a job first so they could afford dog food. Now we’ve connected them with organizations that provide jobs, so instead of that group just saying ‘sorry, we only provide service dogs,” now they can say ‘I know this group that can help you get a job and I know another group that can help you get mental health counseling,’” said Taub.

According to Taub, 96 New Hampshire service members have lost their lives in the course of duty since 2001, but almost ten times as many New Hampshire veterans have committed suicide during that time, even though many veterans and their loved ones do not realize the mental health dangers that await many veterans once they return home.

In Taub’s estimation, approximately a third of the 90,000 in New Hampshire need greater support to deal with their daily challenges, ranging from housing insecurity to post-traumatic stress disorder.

“Every ten days we lose another veteran in New Hampshire and that’s why we created this mission and do things like this summit,” said Taub. “We have to fundraise and do something about it because it’s not acceptable.”

Throughout the afternoon, SWAM held workshops for the over 150 veterans and dozens of veteran service organizations in attendance, with introductory speeches from New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu and Manchester Mayor Jay Ruais.

“The best solutions are brought from organizations community to community, neighborhood to neighborhood, person to person that has a connection that we have here in New Hampshire that other states do not have,” said Sununu.

“You’re working with organizations doing incredible work in this and ensuring that we’re not duplicating efforts as we’re making sure to work together so people aren’t falling through the cracks,” said Ruais. “It really is a privilege to be among people who are dedicating their lives and at one point as the old quote goes, signed a check to Uncle Sam payable at the cost of their own life if necessary.”

More information on SWAM can be found at its website, https://www.swam.org/

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About this Author

Andrew Sylvia

Assistant EditorManchester Ink Link

Born and raised in the Granite State, Andrew Sylvia has written approximately 10,000 pieces over his career for outlets across Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont. On top of that, he's a licensed notary and licensed to sell property, casualty and life insurance, he's been a USSF trained youth soccer and futsal referee for the past six years and he can name over 60 national flags in under 60 seconds according to that flag game app he has on his phone, which makes sense because he also has a bachelor's degree in geography (like Michael Jordan). He can also type over 100 words a minute on a good day.