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STEERING AMERICA'S NEW VETERANS TOWARD JUSTICE

Guiding the way for young veterans.

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After 21 years in the Navy, Mark Potter knows a thing or two about talking to veterans. Upon his retirement in 2005, he put his ability to talk – and listen – to veterans to use as a VFW advocate.

“I’m comfortable talking to them,” Potter said. “It’s a matter of knowing that what you don’t say is just as important as what you do say. I try to help steer them in the right direction.”

Mark spends most of his time shuttling between the military hospitals in Quantico and Bethesda. As a National Pre-Discharge Claims Representative, he’s pulling chairs right up to the bedsides of seriously wounded veterans to help them through the VA claims process.

“A lot of veterans aren’t educated about what benefits they’re due, and there are a lot of rumors and misinformation to deal with,” he said. “My job is to give them straight information and make everything clear.”

While in the Navy, Mark, a Hospital Corpsman, was responsible for the health care of 900 Marines and Sailors. Before his training as a VFW service officer, Mark spent nearly two years working for the Board of Veterans Appeals. Both positions make him uniquely qualified to help wounded veterans.

“Young” is a factor Mark stresses as he explains who he helps. Most of the veterans he assists are in their 20s, wounded from serving in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“The veterans I help are dealing with multiple issues: combat wounds, TBI, PTSD, amputations, tinnitus. It’s usually not just one thing.

“A lot of times I’m walking on eggshells, trying to draw them out because they don’t want to admit they have a problem.”

Mark pauses to recall a young Sergeant who lost all four limbs in battle.

“This guy was incredible,” Mark explained. “So selfless. Instead of being worried about himself, he was concerned about his mom having to care for him.

“I calmed his nerves and told him we would get him the help he needed. The bravery of these young men and women is what motivates me every day.”

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