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Eight Months After Tragedy, Another Crisis Tightens Bonds in El Paso

Posted on Apr 06, 2020 06:30 pm

Everything changed last summer for El Paso, Texas – home to Fort Bliss – when a gunman killed 22 at a local Walmart and injured 24 others.

“The events of August 3rd really tested and challenged El Paso,” said Carl Dwyer, who heads up veterans services for El Paso County. “We learned a lot from that. And it taught us a lot of lessons that prepared us for going into this pandemic.”

That tragedy helped strengthen Fort Bliss’ connection with the community.

“Fort Bliss trauma surgeons were able to actually operate on our operating floors, and it saved a lot of lives,” said Paul Albright, the chief military officer for the city of El Paso.

Soldiers returning to Fort Bliss from a routine mission are being quarantined on base until it’s clear they don’t have COVID-19 symptoms, as officials, installation leaders and other organizations look for ways to coordinate the community’s response to the outbreak.

The El Paso Chamber of Commerce launched a website with resources for the military, community members and its membership, composed primarily of small businesses.

“These are precisely the people who are being hit the hardest,” said Desirae Manzanares, who manages government relations and advocacy at the chamber. “So our job is to become extremely well-versed in the legislation that’s coming forward so that we can give them the right guidance.”

There is also a focus on providing mental health services, including that of veterans in El Paso and across the country, as more veterans embrace telehealth.

“In a span of three days, we did over 1,200 sessions [nationally]. That’s a lot,” said Ben Miranda Jr., the director of operational impact and business development for Endeavors and Cohen Military Family Clinic-El Paso. “We’re going to continue to see a need across our military communities with people needing mental health care – not only for service members and veterans, but also across the whole entire family.”

Army photo by David Poe

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Post courtesy of the Association of Defense Communities

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