| By Katelyn Gendron-List |
AGAWAM After a lengthy interview process for the three final candidates, out of a pool of 22 total applicants, the Western Hampden Veterans District Board of Governors' has named the new director of the Western Hampden District Department of Veterans' Services.
Richard Girard Jr., formally the deputy director of the Western Hampden District Department of Veterans' Services, has now been named director. He takes the place of previous director Ed Kellogg who retired.
"I'm ecstatic about the whole promotion," Girard said. "I consider it a blessing to be able to help all of our veterans. I think that the people who fought for this country and their families should be taken care of."
Girard, who represents Agawam, Southwick, Granville and Tolland added that he plans to reach many veterans locally to make them aware of the benefits to which they are entitled. Specifically, a Veterans Affairs pension called "Aid and Attendance," which helps to offset the cost of assisted living and home health care.
"It's only fair that they get what they have coming to them," Girard said. "I get World War II vets that didn't know that they were entitled to these benefits for the past 60 years. I want to make people aware so that they don't wait until they're in their mid-80s [to receive the benefits]."
The Western Hampden District Board of Governors' voted unanimously to name Girard as director. One such board member was Richard Cohen, mayor of Agawam.
"Mr. Girard was chosen because he had a true understanding of what veterans' needs would be and he will meet all the needs of the communities he will be serving," Cohen said. "We wanted someone who could hit the ground running and someone who truly cared about the veterans and he will be able to do that."
Even though the board voted unanimously, the three finalists for the position were all very capable, according to Karl Stinehart, chairman of the Western Hampden Veterans District Board of Governors' and Southwick chief administrative officer.
"He was able to distinguish himself [from the other candidates]," Stinehart said. "He has a high energy level and he is committed to reaching out to the veterans. I'm quite happy with the feedback we've gotten from people. He got to know our veterans and our communities while he was deputy director and they really liked him."
Not only will Girard have to reach out to past war veterans but also the veterans of the current war in Iraq and that will be a tall order in itself, Stinehart added.
Girard will be speaking in detail about the Veterans Affairs "Aid and Attendance" pension at the Agawam Senior Center on July 18 at noon.
For more information contact Girard at 786-0400 extension 236.