There are many veteran organizations throughout Central Texas available to help out a veteran who might have fallen on hard times or need assistance in coping with personal issues. The problem is, according to one veteran, finding out which organization is best suited to help with a specific problem.
Attempting to navigate the organizations while planning the inaugural Vet Fest Austin in November 2016 — an event which brought together more than 50 nonprofits, veteran service organizations and veteran owned businesses — former Army Staff Sgt. Dennis Katona came to a realization.
Many of the veterans in need of assistance also needed something more intangible: A mission.
So with the assistance of the Vet Fest team, Katona founded OP Veteran, a nonprofit designed to provide veteran community stewardship by fostering engagement of veterans into the nonprofit community at large through mentorship, awareness campaigns and fund-raising activities to provide a growing support system for all veterans.
“By and large, not a lot of people know about our organization in the Killeen area, especially considering the large veteran population around Fort Hood,” Katona said. “We’re trying to get the word out so we can help connect veterans with the resources they might need, volunteer opportunities and with veteran-owned businesses looking to hire fellow veterans.”
And setting up veterans with the chance to volunteer with a nonprofit or organization which helps their fellow veterans also re-establishishes a sense of purpose, he said.
“When we’re actively serving (to include National Guard and Reserve), we always had a mission,” Katona said. “We knew what we had to do and we did it. Sometimes when we leave the service, we lose that sense of purpose. We need a mission.”
Katona enlisted in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard in 1993 as an armor crewman. He became an active duty Army National Guard recruiter in 2000 before transferring to the regular Army in 2002 as a Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear noncommissioned officer. He deployed in 2003 for the invasion of Iraq and again in 2005 for Operation Iraqi Freedom. He also deployed in 2011 to Japan in support of Operation Tomadachi, providing relief efforts after the earthquake and tsunami that hit in March 2011, and was honorably discharged in 2012.
He now serves the veteran community as the CEO of OP Veteran.
“The veteran community is not just made up of veterans — it includes their families and the civilians who interact with us on a daily basis,” Katona said. “(OP Veteran) helps bring everyone together in the civilian world to help our veterans fully transition from military service to serving the community.”
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