By Bill McKay

Del Webb Southshore Falls (SSF) in Apollo Beach is a 55+ active adult community of 866 homes. There are many diverse programs, clubs and organizations supporting the needs and interests of the residents in the community. One of the organizations is the Veterans Group.

The SSF Veterans Group was established May 20, 2017 to promote fellowship, provide resources, and encourage community service among residents who served in the armed forces. There are over 162 veterans in the community who served in the military with service in WWII, Korean, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan wars. John Higgins (Army) serves on the Board of Directors of the Homeowners Association and is board liaison to the Veterans Group. He stated, “Veterans as a group are terribly uninformed about the many programs, services and support available to them.” Higgins adds the group’s mission is “to reach out to provide a clearing house of information and assistance.”

The Veterans Group sponsors meetings with local speakers and subject matter experts that address group needs such as maximizing use of the healthcare system through the VA, crisis management resources to those in need and other topics of interest (such as agent orange) driven by the needs of members. Bruce Lavoie (Army) is a founding member and leader of the Veterans Group. “I find that most active members of the group are interested in hearing about almost anything veteran related, whether it be a speaker talking about canine service dogs, or how to obtain veterans benefits,” he said.

The February meeting included two speakers that placed a spotlight on the military Working Dog Service and Honor Flight Program. The Working Dog speaker spoke about the history of the program providing trained dogs to all branches of the military services to guard military facilities and support combat missions. The Honor Flight program honors veterans for their sacrifices and service and transports veterans to Washington, D.C. from all over the country to visit and reflect at their memorials.

The Veterans Group is an important part of community and a resource to the veterans, Higgins adds, “The support of our Board and our entire community has made the group one of the largest and most active member organizations within Southshore Falls.” The community honors their service, their contribution to our freedom and recognition for all they have done.

The members are recognized in a slideshow continually running in the clubhouse that includes their branch of service, the years they served, their pictures both when they were in the service and a ‘now’ picture showing them today. This slideshow is popular within the community and has been well received as a tribute to their service. The SSF community on Veterans Day and Memorial Day recognizes veterans with a barbecue and gathering to pay tribute to their service and sacrifice. Lavoie adds, “For me what I get out of being part of the Veterans Committee is the satisfaction I get when other group members say how much they liked a speaker that we have had, or how much they liked an event that we participated in.”

The Veterans Group will soon be celebrating one year providing service to the community. The coming year is certain to provide additional information and support for the veterans living in Southshore Falls.