WARRENSBURG — Sheri Oberhelman was focused on veteran support systems Tuesday morning, Nov. 5.
Oberhelman spoke to residents and guests at the Missouri Veterans Home — Warrensburg about the FOCUS Marines Foundation as part of Marine Corps Day during the MVHW’s Branch of Service Week.
FOCUS Marines Foundation is based out of St. Louis.
It was created in 2010 by Marines who served in the Corps years ago.
The FOCUS program serves wounded warriors in various stages of transition and recovery.
“There are organizations, like FOCUS and other ones throughout the country, that are scooping them (veterans) up and helping them get back on their feet,” Oberhelman said.
Oberhelman is an FMF board member and FOCUS program coordinator.
As the daughter of a master gunnery sergeant, Oberhelman grew up in the Marine Corps.
Her life has revolved around the military – with a grandfather serving in the Navy during World War II, an uncle who is a career Marine officer and a brother who just retired after 20 years in the Navy.
She now helps veterans who are returning from service, in areas such as Iraq and Afghanistan, find a sense of hope and purpose.
“We work with them to figure out why are they stuck? What are they still dealing with? What do they need to leave behind them?,” Oberhelman told attendees at her presentation on Tuesday. “We then work on goals with them. We help them figure out what that next step is going to be.”
She said veterans are flown in from all over the country to an area just west of St. Louis, at no cost to the veteran, for a week-long program.
FMF host four sessions a year for veterans.
“Suddenly, they are in a room with 30 other veterans who get it, they know what they are going through,” Oberhelman said. “A lot of time they get home from their deployment and they are in a community where nobody gets it.”
Sunday is spent building class energy and cohesion. Monday through Wednesday focuses on “Who Are You? & Who Do You Want To Be?” and Thursday through Friday addresses “What Do You Want To Do? & How Are You Going To Make It Happen?”
As of January 2019, 782 Global Wars on Terror veterans from the Marine Corps, Navy, Army and Air Force have attended FOCUS.
Marines and Navy Corpsmen comprise 90% of each class.
Attendees have ranged in rank from private to colonel and in ages from 21 to 67.
While there are typically four classes a year, 2019 featured a fifth class.
This year, FMF got to go to a Navajo reservation in Arizona.
There, Oberhelman said FMF got to meet with a code talker who joined the Marine Corps when he was 15 years old.
“It was incredible to learn about their culture and how they were so crucial in fighting in World War II,” she said of the Navajo population.
For more information about FMF, visit focusmarines.org.