GALLUP, NM – To promote veterans’ wellness and awareness to health disparities within the veteran community, the Fourth Annual Operation Veterans Wellness, 3-on-3 basketball tournament, Jobs and Benefits Fair, and Gourd Dance was held at Rio West Mall on Saturday, July 27. The Navajo Nation Division of Behavioral & Mental Health Services (DBMHS), City of Gallup, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and other local veteran advocates and resources, teamed up to organize the event.

Hundreds of locals attended to show support and appreciation for veterans who have served and given the ultimate sacrifice for freedom and prosperity in the United States. DBMHS Behavioral Health Director, Vera John was credited by the event speakers and presenters for her dedication to veterans through her work coordinating with the various organizations to put on the important occasion.

“The purpose of Operation Veterans Wellness is to let [veterans] know what their resources are and what’s available for them,” John explained. “We have all these booths here to help [them] and we have our staff from Division of Behavioral and Mental Health Services here.”

“We really want to promote wellness and we understand that the transition home can sometimes be difficult,” she continued. “It’s difficult for families too with that transition, so we really encourage and promote wellness for everyone to be able to take care of themselves and their families as well, that’s really why we’re here.”

DBMHS regularly works with the VA to provide comprehensive behavioral health services to native families including native veterans suffering from PTSD and other behavioral health disorders. The VA consults with American Indian and Alaska Native tribal governments to develop partnerships that enhance access to services and benefits for veterans and their families.

John thanked all the co-sponsors including The City of Gallup , Rio West Mall, Crownpoint Indian Health Service Division of Public Health, Vet Center, Gallup Citizens Honoring Veterans, Navajo Nation Judicial Branch, Navajo Nation Department of Veterans Affairs, Millennium Media, Inc., Navajo-Hopi Honor Riders, Gallup Water Works, Diné Hoghaan Bii’ Development, Inc., New Mexico Workforce Connection, and Gallup Pumping Services.

DBMHS is proud to honor warriors in accordance with tradition in Native American communities as they serve in the U.S. Armed Forces at a higher rate than any other group. According to the 2010 Census, it is estimated that over 150,000 veterans identified as American Indian and Alaska Native.