While the VA Bay County Vet Center facility and staff recover from Hurricane Michael’s impact Oct. 10, a handful of VA Vet Centers in the southeastern U.S. have deployed staff to keep the Vet Center’s mission going.

During normal circumstances, VA Vet Centers provide readjustment counseling for post-traumatic stress disorder, military sexual trauma, bereavement, and referral services to Veterans and active duty service members who have returned home from combat and their family members.  In an emergency response scenario such as the VA’s ongoing mission in Bay County, Florida, outreach trauma care and humanitarian services become a large part of their efforts.

“We have been visiting emergency shelters, churches, supply distribution points, making home visits and more looking for Veterans,” Tim Prendergast, Veterans outreach program specialist from the Augusta Vet Center (Georgia), said.  “We are actively out in the community every day, looking for Veterans to help.”

Who they have found are Veterans in peril, short on hope, as the realization of Hurricane Michael’s impact and their circumstances sets in.

“We’ve seen a lot of Veterans who are suffering from anxiety, major stress, and a variety of other issues,” Antika Payne, marriage and family therapist from the Okaloosa County Vet Center (Florida), said. “Some of the Veterans we’ve seen just need someone to talk to.  It’s really rough out there.”

Leading the team is Chattanooga Vet Center Director Taz Randles, who explained that part of the deployed Vet Center team’s ongoing responsibility, which consists of Vet Center staff from the Pensacola, Florida; Knoxville, Tennessee; Okaloosa County, Florida; Johnson City, Tennessee; and Augusta, Georgia, “is to make sure Veterans have all the support they need.  And, if encountered along the way, we support civilians and their needs, too.”

Michael Tucker, outreach specialist from the Pensacola Vet Center, was among the first ‘boots on the ground’ when the Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System’s Veterans Hurricane Michael Medical Station stood up Oct. 14.  The Mobile Vet Center vehicle he drives initially served as the command center for the station.

“Since day one, we’ve seen a steady flow of Veterans who needed our help,” Tucker said. “If they keep coming, we’ll keep helping them.  This is what we do.”

“I’m very appreciate of the services provided by all Vet Center staff involved,” said Bryan C. Matthews, director of the Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System.  “The dedication they show on a daily basis is a valuable asset to have during an event like this.”

Vet Center services are available at the medical station during its operating hours, which are 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.  The station is located in the Panama City Walmart parking lot at 513 W. 23rd Street.

On Oct. 22, the Bay County Vet Center, located at 3109 Minnesota Avenue, Suite 101, in Lynn Haven, Florida, will reopen at 8 a.m. Readjustment Counseling Service will also continue to provide services at the Walmart located at 513 W 23rd Street in Panama City.

About the author: Jerron Barnett is a public affairs officer for the Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System.

Share this story

Published on Oct. 22, 2018

Estimated reading time is 2.6 min.

Views to date: 93


  1. Carolyn Durham October 29, 2018 at 6:06 pm

    If you done what you should have been doing in the first place. They wouldn’t be homeless. Putting buildings that the city doesn’t really need but then you got your homeless people here hungry and cold and nowhere to go veterans that have served our country homeless hungry and some don’t even have a coat to put on that back in the winter time but you want to talk about what you’ve done you’ve done nothing to help help anyone get back on their feet I think it’s you all be ashamed of yourselves always tell me we support the veterans we support this week support that but you’re not doing anything get off your bus and do the right thing

    • Lyle Allen November 2, 2018 at 8:55 pm

      Hi Carolyn, I am the Purple Heart recipient in the above picture and was on the ground going from shelter to shelter making sure our veterans were taken care of during their time of crisis. If you would like to talk about getting up and doing something please call me and we could work together and try to accomplish this injustice for so many of our veterans.
      Respectfully yours,

  2. Miranda Peters October 25, 2018 at 1:45 pm

    They have really worked hard and deserve some accolades! Great team!

Comments are closed.

More Stories

  • Here are the most asked questions and answers about Long COVID. Also, a list of many of the symptoms. Use this list to tell your clinician or care team.

  • Check in for your appointments using your smartphone allows you to practice physical distancing while offering ease and convenience.

  • Today, VA named finalists and Promise Award recipients in Mission Daybreak—a $20 million challenge to help VA develop new suicide prevention strategies for Veterans.