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Veterans’ Services office opens

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Midlothian - A number of officials were on hand to celebrate the grand opening of a new Veterans' Services office in Midlothian, at 1150 N. Highway 67.

The converted church building also houses several other county and city officials, including Justice of the Peace Linda Sibley and Constable
Steve McKinney.

'This is a great day in Ellis County,' said County Judge Chad Adams.

'This is a vision the Commissioners have promulgated, bringing the services out to where the veterans are, to meet their needs.'

Commissioner Ron Brown, pct. 4, and Commissioner Heath Sims, pct. 3, were also in attendance.

'I appreciate what James (Wilhoite) has done,' said Brown. 'We don't honor the veterans nearly enough.'

Sims echoed the sentiment.

'James is the one that has worked so hard on this, out of a desire to benefit the veterans,' he said.

Wilhoite has opened two other satellite offices recently.

'The first Wednesday of each month we are in Red Oak. The second Wednesday is reserved for Ferris. The third is Italy, and the last Wednesday of the month we will be here in Midlothian,' Wilhoite said.

'My assistant, Mr. Kelker, will be overseeing these satellite offices - they'll be in good hands with him.'

Charles Kelker was recently voted 'Outstanding Assistant Service Officer' in the region, an honor that he says was a surprise to him.

'I am proud to work with James, and glad to represent the County,' Kelker added.

The two part-time service officers assist between 50 and 80 veterans and widows of veterans each month throughout the County, and receive a minimum of two weeks' training each year.

'As of Sept. 30, 2006, there were 10,404 veterans in Ellis County,' Wilhoite said, noting the number had increased by just over 500 since 2004.

'In 2004, benefits amounting to $12,684,000 were paid to Ellis County veterans, and in 2006 the amount had more than doubled, to $28,310,000.'

Wilhoite attributed the increase in benefits in part to improved accessibility.

'Thanks are due to the Commissioners and Judge Adams for the fact that the veterans are being served and helped with their claims,' he said.

'We have a Commissioners' Court and a County Judge that really support our veterans.'

Thanks were also due, Wilhoite said, to Midlothian Mayor Boyce Whatley, Constable Steve McKinney, pct. 4, Justice of the Peace Linda Sibley, pct. 4, Midlothian Chief of Police Carl Smith and County Communications Director Diana Buckley.

Wilhoite took time to encourage attendance at the upcoming Veterans' Day celebration, scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 10 at 10 a.m. at the Waxahachie Civic Center.

'We are losing our World War II veterans at a rate of about 1,200 a day throughout the U.S., so there's a lot of history and information that is passing us by as these World War II veterans are going on to their reward,' Wilhoite said.

'If you have never attended one (of these annual services), if you want a real blessing, you need to attend.'

He also encouraged citizens offer a vote of thanks to veterans within the community as Veterans Day approaches.

'If you know someone is a veteran, thank them for their service, thank them for their time, thank them for their dedication,' he said.

'The freedoms we enjoy today were paid for by the veterans - some gave their lives. Let's hold on to our freedoms.'

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