Shannon Dearth enjoys helping veterans.
That is his primary plan as he begins his new job as director of Crook County's Veterans Services Office.
Dearth started his military career nearly 28 years ago with the Oregon Army National Guard. He started out as a reserve while operating a drywall business with his father.
"We worked for quite a few years together side by side. We had some good times," Dearth recalls. But after completing jobs in Las Vegas and then in the Eugene and Springfield area, he realized the profession would not sustain him long-term.
"I was part-time in the National Guard originally," he said. "It was about 1997 I started watching in the newspapers the decline of all the projected building permits. And being a small business, I noticed we were going to be one of the first ones to go under."
So, Dearth set his dad up with a larger drywall company and "because I had the option available to me, I went active Army."
Now 47 years old with a wife, two kids and two grandchildren, Dearth has been either active Army or full-time National Guard staff for the past 20 years. He went active duty at Fort Hood in Texas and then later came back to Oregon and became full-time staff.
His military career ultimately led him to Prineville, where he was transferred in 2009. Having recently begun the process of retiring from the National Guard, Dearth was intrigued by the possibility of overseeing the Crook County's Veterans Services Office.
"When you get to the end of our career, you always look for the next step," he explained. "One thing I did enjoy while working as full-time staff was taking care of the soldiers. Whether I was a supply sergeant, administrative NCO (non-commissioned officer), training NCO or my last position as readiness NCO, it's taking care of the soldiers — dealing with pay issues or their medical problems or helping with their clothing or equipment issues. The fact that you are able to assist them and they can drive on and accomplish their mission, that in itself is rewarding."
The director position at the Crook County Veterans Services Office became available in December after former director Angie Gilley was fired following a controversial incident involving the Prineville Band of Brothers. Dearth saw the opening on the county hiring page and applied for the job. He took over the position this past Wednesday.
Dearth acknowledges that his new job will be different and that he will have to learn to do some new reports and access different databases. However, he expects his work in the National Guard to help ease that transition.
"A lot of the documents that we end up using to support a claim, I was preparing on the military side," he said. "That background will help me out."
But all of those details will still boil down to one primary goal that Dearth holds dear as he takes charge of the Veterans Services Office.
"The whole purpose is to take care of the veterans — bottom line."