Mike Powell named VSO benefit coordinator
Though not a native of Orange, Mike Powell has met the requirements to be an Orange native. He lived in Riverside, graduated from Stark High School and worked for DuPont.
Powell is originally from central Louisiana and moved to Orange in 1961 when his dad, Vernon, was hired by the Orange Fire Department. He graduated from Stark in 1969 and enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 1970.
His time in the Marines was unique in that he became a member of HMX-1, also known as “Marine 1.” He served in the two helicopter units under the administration of President Richard Nixon.
“My first years were spent in the “Green Tops”, these are the support helicopters. They are along with the “White Tops” to provide maintenance personnel and other functions that the unit may need. You stay with these for the time required to get the necessary clearance to move to the presidential detail or the “White Tops.” These are the large helicopters that the President rides in.” said Powell. “We traveled all over the world with President Nixon; the U.S., Europe, and any place else he needed to go. It was a very interesting tour of duty.”
Moving into the “White Tops,” Powell served at times as the crew chief. “You did not have to be a real crew chief to serve as crew chief. They mostly looked for people that “looked good,” since the crew chief was often visible. All of us rotated into that job from time to time,” he said.
Powell moved back to Orange after his enlistment in the Marines and joined the local National Guard unit. “I was in the unit when it was Charlie Battery of the 133rd Field Artillery, 49th Armored Division. I enjoyed my time in the reserves and sort of regret that I did not stay until retirement,” said Powell.
Powell worked at the DuPont Sabine River Works, retiring with 33 years of service. “I worked all over the plant, when I retired I was a pressure vessel inspector. There had been a lot of changes. There were more coming and I decided it was time to retire,” said Powell.
The thing that a veteran can often understand better than anyone else are the needs of veterans. When Powell found that there was an opening in the Veterans Service Office he decided to apply. “For a lot of us, when you have been in the service, you feel a call to serve. Vets talk “vet talk.” We understand each other no matter what branch of the service we have been in. I have the time and the desire to serve my fellow vets. The VA forms, rules and regulations can be very frustrating to a guy that is having problems. Our job is to try to make things easier for a vet trying to understand the complicated process. We have some new ideas to implement that are going toward that effort.” said Powell.
Some of the most visible problems faced by some veterans are those related to Agent Orange. There have been some new laws passed relating to Agent Orange. These are making it less difficult for affected veterans to make claims and receive benefits. ”We have a lot of vets affected by Agent Orange and they are getting older, and often sicker, we are here to help them understand the new regulations. We would like to get the word out about that among the vets and let them know to ask us when they need help,” said Powell.
There are three benefits coordinators in the Veterans Service Office. They have the knowledge and the time to assist with the filling out of forms and filing claims.
“We are talking about better ways to help our vets. Our office hours are 8 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. One thing that concerns us is the amount of time a person has to wait for service. It is possible that we will go to an appointment system in the near future. It takes two people to file a claim, the claimant and the benefit coordinator. It takes at least an hour to do the basic filling and filing of a claim. We do not like seeing vets waiting for a long period of time to receive service. An appointment system could make their wait shorter. We also would like to build a webpage so that we could post updates on changes in the system, information about our office and anything else that could benefit a veteran needing help,” said Powell.
Powell is married to the former Josie Lucia. They have five children and nine grandchildren.
For information about services offered in the Veterans Service Office you may call 409-745-1535 during office hours.