August 23, 2021
Veterans come home to West Virginia, find benefits and new sense of purpose in emergency management
Returning veterans tout governor's new policies, regard for those who serve among reasons the Mountain State is one of the best to call home
CHARLESTON, W.Va. – West Virginia has a long history of men and women who answer the call of duty to serve in the nation's armed forces. Some who enlist make their home in other areas, but many veterans feel the mountains calling them home.
The West Virginia Emergency Management Division has many military veterans amongst staff members. Chris Rucker and Gabe Reed recently joined EMD's Planning Section, putting their years of military service into disaster response planning for West Virginia.
Reed, a Navy veteran with eight years of service, returned to West Virginia to be with family. A graduate of Ripley High School, Reed left home the morning after commencement to begin boot camp. Completing his technical training, he went on to become a Gunner's Mate and deployed to the Mediterranean in 2001. His battle group fired the first salvos of Tomahawk cruise missiles in the Operation Enduring Freedom campaign.
In 2004, Reed was recruited to join the Naval Special Warfare Group as a Support and Range Technician. As part of this group, in 2007 he had the opportunity to deploy to Afghanistan in support of a combat unit engaged in high frequency missions.
“West Virginia is an extremely pro-veteran state and I'm excited about my appointment with EMD," said Reed. “Through a program from the Veteran's Administration, I'm pursuing my Masters of Business Administration at the University of Charleston."
A CH-47 Chinook pilot with multiple combat tours in Afghanistan, Rucker retired from the Army after 24 years of service. With a culture not found in his many years of travel, Rucker says that West Virginia was the obvious choice for him.
“West Virginians are the most resilient, hardworking, and determined people that I know, and I missed that greatly," Rucker said. “I was also extended an opportunity to serve the people that I love by continuing my service with the Emergency Management Division. EMD has given me a sense of purpose, which is an invaluable thing for a veteran. The final reason for returning home and arguably the main reason, is the amount of care and regard given to those who serve. From the governor's new policy to end state taxation of military pensions to the host of other benefits to support those who serve, West Virginia is one of the best places to be for a veteran."
Reed and Rucker are responsible for updating and implementing improvements to the State Emergency Operations Plan (SEOP). The SEOP is the backbone for addressing all emergency incidents and disasters that may strike West Virginia.
“EMD is proud of all our staff members and is eager to hire veterans to join our team," said Deputy Director Greg Fuller. “Our team is about service to state residents and when we find veterans with the right skillset, there's no one better to fill these roles."
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