Veteran Support Center now open in Lovell

Veterans in need of assistance now have a place to turn to in North Big Horn County with the opening of the Warrior Veteran Support Center last week in Lovell.
The center at 59 East Main opened Wednesday, May 25, with a meet and greet as several veterans stopped by to visit with director Les Files, a veteran of 24 years of service in the U.S. Army. Files will hold office hours from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and by special appointment.
The nonprofit relies on the generosity of the community in the form of products, equipment, time and money, Files said.
Files was raised in a military family with his father serving in the Air Force, he said. Raised in Deering, N.D., near Minot Air Force Base, he enlisted in the military in 1984 as a combat engineer for the U.S. Army, then got out in 1996 due to injuries.
He earned a teaching degree in social sciences at North Dakota State University and moved with then wife Wendy to Lovell in 2003, where he did student teaching at Lovell High School during the spring semester. He enlisted in the Wyoming Army National Guard that fall and also worked for the Big Horn County Juvenile Drug Court.
“With my military and education background it was kind of a nice fit, the discipline and teaching aspect of it,” Files said of his drug court work.
Files was deployed with the National Guard to Iraq in 2004-05 and moved to active duty in 2006 at Camp Williams, Utah, as an instructor at the base school. After three years in that role, he moved into unit support and was promoted to work in military intelligence, deployed overseas in 2010-11. He continued to work in intelligence and unit support until his retirement in 2015, when he moved back to Lovell.
“I’ve been helping veterans since I got out,” he said. “I help them get answers. We’ve got to stick together. We’re so remote, it’s hard to get answers or help.”
That’s where the Veteran Support Center comes in. Files can help vets find legal support and medical support, and he can point them to obtain federal, state and local benefits. He’ll even run documents to Basin to help a veteran with state and local benefits.
“There’s so much stuff veterans are eligible for, and many people don’t have a clue,” Files said. “I try to help ‘em any way I can. My advantage is that I’ve been through the VA system once before. I know what to expect, what questions to ask and the timelines. I have associations with people who know who to call to get answers, even current active duty servicemen.”
The Veteran Support Center has computers to access the VA system and a printer/scanner
for documents.
“I can help them get stuff mailed in, or I’ll email it for them,” Files said.
“A lot of veterans don’t have a computer or access
to the Internet.”
Files urges veterans to reach out to him.
“By all means, ask – on the street or in here,” he said. “If nothing else, we can make an appointment. I don’t like to see vets falling through the cracks because they don’t know who to ask … And if I don’t know something, I’ll keep digging.”
Files said he purposely sought a place on Main Street that is visible and easy to find, noting, “I wanted front and center.”
He noted that the center is a support center but not a full resource center providing services like in-house counseling, group sessions, a crisis center and financial assistance, although he said he may try to reach that status down the road.
Also working with the center are Angel Snyder, a former Marine, and Cheyenne Berg, a former member of the National Guard.
“We have a wide range of experience in our veterans, who have their own story and experience to bring to the center,” Files said.
A letter of explanation for veterans states: “Our mission is to support the many veterans of our armed forces and their immediate family in maintaining or improving the quality of life that they currently exist in. We will be working with other programs  and agencies to accommodate positive and long term success for our veterans and families.”
The services of the Warrior Veteran Support Center are provided free
of charge.