Members of the West Pine Bluff Rotary Club welcomed guest speaker Col. Nate Todd, who spoke on veteran concerns in the state of Arkansas, during their Thursday meeting.

Todd, director of the Arkansas Department of Veteran Affairs, started his speech off by acknowledging that he was “glad to be in Pine Bluff, Arkansas.”

Hailing from the city himself, the Pine Bluff High School alumnus recounted his start in the school’s JROTC program and how it molded him into the person he is today.

“It changed my life,” Todd said.

After enrolling in JROTC, Todd was required to wear a uniform and follow certain rules, which he said taught him how to critique and fine-tuned him into real-world problems.

Todd had initial goals to attend the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff and join their ROTC program, but after learning that he would not be granted a scholarship, he opted for the U.S. Army instead.

“Arkansas is the leading state for sending kids to the military,” Todd said. “It is highly regarded in the military.”

As the director of the Arkansas Department of Veteran Affairs, Todd spends a lot of his time looking into the needs of veterans around the state and working to address them through the department.

There are eight district veterans offices scattered through the state that Todd said are ready to help however they can.

In respect to veterans in the state who may be in need of long-term healthcare, Todd described the veterans homes in Fayetteville and North Little Rock.

The $9 million veterans home in North Little Rock has the capacity to hold 96 veterans and was funded partly by Governor Asa Hutchinson’s $1.8 million contribution.

Todd also said that National Guardsmen are subject to waived tuition when they enroll in classes at any Arkansas school. One problem the Arkansas Department of Veteran Affairs is facing, according to Todd, is bringing more veterans to the state.

Florida, Tennessee and Texas have been the more popular states for retirees to settle down in, as they are exempt from paying state taxes, he said.

Leaving a few closing remarks, Todd encouraged everyone to enroll their children in JROTC programs at their schools in order to encourage them to join the military. Todd thanked the Rotary for their work around the community and throughout the state, and ended with a few parting words:

“This freedom isn’t free,” said Todd.

A short question and answer session with the director resulted in more veteran resources for those suffering with visible behavioral issues.

According to Todd, veterans who show signs of behavioral disorders can be treated for up to six months, regardless if the veteran was dishonorably or honorably discharged.