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Sean Kirk and Nancy Laude have joined the team at Crook County Veteran Services, and and willing and ready to serve local veterans

RAMONA MCCALLISTER - Laura Laude, pictured left, and Sean Kirk, veteran services officers for Crook County Veteran Services, are available to serve local veterans at the office on 422 NW Beaver St.The faces at the Crook County Veteran's Services office have changed, but the friendly service and hours have not changed.

Sean Kirk and Nancy Laude joined the office approximately one month ago, and both are looking forward to serving the veterans in the Crook County community. Kirk works full time, and works Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Laude works part-time on Wednesdays and Thursdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The office is still located at 422 Northwest Beaver St.

Kirk indicated that the office closed for a couple of months, and they are in the process of receiving their accreditation. Although they are working on training, they are still open five days per week as usual. He said they are looking to eventually add one more individual to their team.

"We are trying to keep the same schedule that existed before, with everything by appointment except Tuesdays, which will be walk-ins. It is easier that way, and it's a better service for people," said Kirk of the hours at the office.

He indicated that they do veteran paperwork at the office as usual, in addition to submitting claims. There are some documents they cannot sign until they are accredited, and those documents must be signed by another office temporarily. Kirk and Laude utilize technology to get help with questions from clients as well.

"We are here to serve them, and what we don't know, we find a way to get the answers right now. The more people we see and the more scenarios we come across, the better we will be in our knowledge — which means we are able to do a better job in helping them," Kirk went on to explain. "They shouldn't fear our immediate lack of experience or knowledge to automatically go to another office. We are here to serve them, and the more people we see, the better we get and the quicker we are."

He pointed out that they are the liaison with the main Veteran's Administration, and once the paperwork leaves the office, they continue to check on it, but cannot expedite it at that point.

"The clock starts, but we can only monitor at that point. They just need to know we are here, and we are eager to help. I know there has been a void and a vacancy for a while, but the county is doing the right thing to fix that hole and getting the office back going. The county knows the value of the veterans and that they are important," Kirk emphasized.

Kirk was in the United States Army in active duty for 26 years, with four deployments. He deployed to Iraq twice, and Afghanistan twice. After retiring, he was in the transitions branch and other involuntary and voluntary separations. He moved to Bend after retirement, but he grew up in Medford. His wife is from Texas, and they both like Central Oregon.

Kirk and his family like the outdoor lifestyle in Central Oregon. They enjoy traveling throughout Oregon because the state has a great deal to offer.

"I tell people everywhere I have been assigned, if you pick any spot in the U.S., then you can put it in Oregon — we have it all."

When he first entered the Army, he was an electronic warfare signal analyst in Cryptology. After three years, he temporarily got out of the service to attend college. He then re-entered for his final 23 years, initially as a senior Human Resource specialist. During deployments, he was with infantry units.

"I was the senior enlisted advisor to the Turkish General for the train advise assist command in Kabul and did that for one year during 2016," he said.

Kirk had a number of promotions, and served many roles throughout his military career, including serving as a recruiter in Hawaii. He has served in Korea, Colorado, Montana, Spokane, Washington, Missouri, Kentucky, and Fort Lewis multiple times. He attended Fort Jackson and Fort Bliss for promotion schools.

"When I retired, I went to work for Oregon State University for a couple of years, because I had to take a break."

Kirk noted that his past experience and time in the service is an asset to his current position as Veteran Services Officer.

"I know veterans, because I am one, and those are the people I am the most comfortable with," he added. "With my career doing the recruiting, I have seen people — plus myself — come into the military. I worked at the military entrance processing station, so I helped them through that whole process to actually sign their contract and get qualified and ship them off to basic. My last position was when they were transitioning out, and this seems like another natural progression. Now I am helping people who are out. I have hit every avenue, and I like helping people and veterans, and that is why I chose the HR field in the military, and this is just another way to continue that in an extension."

Nancy Laude also works in the veteran's office on Wednesdays and Thursdays each week with Kirk and is also a United States veteran. She served in active duty with the United States Army just shy of 11 years. After leaving the service, she became volunteered with COVO (Central Oregon Veterans Outreach), working with a service officer helping with veterans' claims.

"That is when I kind of got hit by the bug (that) this is kind of an interesting line of work," she said of her entry into processing claims for veterans.

She had an opportunity to apply and accept employment in 2011 with the Veterans Administration in the Winston/Salem regional office in North Carolina. She was hired as a rater for the compensation/disability claims department.

"They are making the decision on what percentages people will get, whether or not they will get service connection for disabilities and those kinds of things," she explained of the position.

Laude transferred to Portland in 2017 and worked there as a rater until 2019, when she retired. She said that although she might come up short on things like healthcare, she has background and experience on disability compensation and pensions.

After she retired, she had hoped she would be able to get back into helping veterans file claims but wanted to work part time only. When the position came open in Prineville, she was happy to take the opportunity.

"It was perfect for me, so I get to go back to doing what I enjoy doing and doing it on a reduced schedule."

Laude wants veterans in Crook County to know that they are here and available to serve them.

"I think its important that people in the county should be able to stay in the county and be able to come in and get the help that they need — whether its claims or healthcare or whatever — that they know that we're here and they don't need to go somewhere else to get whatever questions that they have."

She added that she would like to see younger veterans to come in and feel connected. She wants them to know that she has a good background in disability claims — even those who are currently in the guard or reserves.

She concluded that she also has experience working with Vietnam veterans.


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