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Former Nevada Mayor’s great idea has been helping people county-wide

Brett McLain is doing his last Hometown Outreach at Nevada City Hall today (May 15, 2024).

Former Nevada Mayor Lynn Lathrop and retiring Story County Veteran Affairs Director Brett McLain

It’s the last because McLain, who has been the Story County Veteran Affairs Director for 25 years, is retiring at the end of this month.

Stopping in during his last Hometown Outreach in Nevada was the former Nevada mayor who helped bring about the idea of Hometown Outreach, which has been happening once or twice a year in every town in Story County for about 10 years now.

Lynn Lathrop, a retired engineering manager with Burke and Nevada mayor from 2013 to 2017, is a veteran. Lynn served in the Marine Corps from 1969 to 1973, enlisting and being sent to Vietnam at the age of 20. Ten years ago, as a mayor and a Story County Veteran Affairs Commissioner, he launched the idea of having Brett visit the smaller communities.

“I kept in contact with a lot of people from the little towns, many who worked at Burke,” Lynn said. He came to realize that those who were older and had military service had no idea about some of the help they could get, especially with medical care.

“It was always, ‘Well, I’m not going to drive over there…,’” Lathrop said when he suggested they talk to Veteran Affairs. So, he wondered what might happen if Brett took the time to go to where they lived.

McLain and Lathrop estimate between 8,000 and 10,000 veterans live in Story County, and many have yet to utilize the resources and assistance that the county’s Veteran Affairs office can provide.

McLain said by going to each community, especially the smaller communities, and utilizing space at city halls, Legion posts, or community buildings, he’s realized that people might walk down the street to talk to him, or he’s been able to get to know the people who work at the smaller city halls and who work at the places where he might grab lunch. And often, those people know veterans who need his help.

He shared an example of a success story that is happening today, May 15. “A veteran living in Zearing is having his first VA medical visit,” Brett shared. This veteran was a shut-in whom Brett learned about during a Hometown Outreach in the community. He actually walked to this veteran’s home, knocked on the door, and began a relationship with the veteran. The personal connection led to this person being able to utilize the benefits he desperately needs from the VA healthcare system. “He didn’t know how to get into the system,” Brett said. And now, this man will qualify for many benefits that can improve his quality of life going forward.

Brett said going to communities on Wednesdays worked well within his schedule, and when he was out of the office, the office still remained open for people stopping in or calling, thanks to the capable coverage of Erin Rewerts, the county’s Veteran Service Officer.

Brett hopes the next director can continue and grow the Hometown Outreach program. “And there’s other ideas that might work too,” he said.

As he nears the end of his time as Veteran Affairs Director in the county, Brett is excited about one more Freedom Flight he’ll be taking this month on May 22. The flight is a joint effort with the Brushy Creek Honor Flight and involves veterans from 29 Iowa counties. Over 160 people, including veterans, chaperones, and medical personnel, will fly to Washington, D.C., and take an 11-hour bus tour of the various memorials and Arlington Cemetery. Brett has served as the chair of the Story County Freedom Flight and hopes to continue that role in retirement, as well as continuing to be a volunteer driver for veterans needing transport to medical appointments.

This is Brett’s second official retirement. He joined the United States Navy right out of high school in 1978 and served for 21 years, retiring at age 39. “My time in the military was after Vietnam; I’m a Persian Gulf veteran,” he noted.

Brett’s second retirement will include Gold Wing motorcycle rides with the Legion Riders of Ames and personal motorcycle rides with his wife. He also looks forward to continued RABGRAI rides and spending time with his family, which includes five grandchildren.

As for the former mayor, Lynn continues to be active in City government as a member of the Nevada Public Library Board. He is also still active in the American Legion. He likes to fish, spend time with family, including his wife Christine of 53 years, and visit with people.

–Written by Marlys Barker, City of Nevada

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