“We’re here so that like-minded organizations, who want to support our military members and veterans, can come together on a routine basis to share information and collaborate to make Hampton Roads the best place in the nation for our military, for our military spouses, and our veterans,” said Bryan K. Stephens, President and CEO of the Hampton Roads Chamber during the third Hampton Roads Military Advisory Council meeting.
On Thursday, August 29th, 47 men and women representing the Hampton Roads Military Advisory Council (HRMAC) convened at the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission in Chesapeake, Virginia. The HRMAC includes volunteers from across the region who are active military members, business owners, and local government workers who are passionate about supporting the military community of Hampton Roads.
“Look around the room,” began Ronald F. Lewis, (General, U.S. Army Retired), Vice-Chair for Military Affairs of the Hampton Roads Chamber. “We’ve got business people representing, we’ve got commanders, we’ve got people with education, we’ve got entrepreneurship, and the Department of the Navy are all here today to tackle an important mission.” Lewis thanked the men and women around the room and stressed the importance of maintaining connections between businesses and the military, saying that this would not be possible without the Hampton Roads Chamber.
Following a brief introductory period, three critical topics were discussed focusing on partnership opportunities, healthcare for veterans, and childcare for military families. Craig Quigley, Executive Director of the Hampton Roads Military and Federal Facilities Alliance (HRMFFA) offered a brief legislative update to the council on the approved federal government funding budget for the full 2020 fiscal year. “That’s very good news for Hampton Roads and for every federal agency that has a presence here,” Quigley said. Quigley also addressed a joint effort by HRMFFA, the Hampton Roads Caucus, and Senator Bryce Reeves for passage of a proposed bill called the “Military Community Partnership Fund” which would allocate $20 million over the biennium in grant money to toward military projects. If approved, this partnership would greatly support military installations in Virginia.
Furthermore, Rear Admiral Chip Rock, Commander, Navy Region Mid-Atlantic, discussed a few potential partnership opportunities between the Navy and Hampton Roads. Admiral Rock addressed a recent five-year joint landing study completed by the Navy, the City of Virginia Beach and the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission on climate resiliency, specifically recurring flooding and its impact on the community and local bases. “The study attempts to prioritize projects that address recurring flooding that have an impact to both access to our Navy bases as well as access to our communities,” said Rock. He urged the importance of this project to the region and argued that this is much more than a regional issue. Admiral Rock also mentioned land use sharing between the Navy and other private or public entities within Hampton Roads. “There’s some opportunity there that may be good for both the economy and the Navy,” stated Rock.
Regarding healthcare for veterans, Dr. Taquisa Simmons, Interim Director, Hampton Veteran Affairs Health Care Center, delivered a presentation on recent developments and growth within the Veterans Affairs (VA) Department of Hampton Roads. Over the past 10 years, the region has experienced 9.8 percent growth in veterans and the VA anticipates a 20 percent growth in the next ten years. With this in mind, the VA is looking to expand its outpatient medical clinics for veterans throughout the region and expects a new facility to open on the south side of Hampton Roads by 2023. Additionally, a new Mission Act proposal from the VA was discussed, which aims to consolidate and streamline healthcare services provided to veterans and their families by the VA. “The Hampton VA will continue to serve veterans and serve veterans well,” said Simmons.
The final key issue discussed was childcare services for military families. Madeleine McAdoo, Navy Installations Command addressed the need for additional childcare facilities in the region for military families. McAdoo communicated the need for childcare facilities and the capacity shortages that the Navy is experiencing in Hampton Roads. “The Navy is trying to expand its childcare services,” said McAdoo. “We’re trying to partner with affiliate organizations like community recreation centers, schools that offer before and after school care, Armed Services YMCA, and the Boys and Girls Club of America.” McAdoo encouraged council members to visit www.militarychildcare.com for more information on childcare options in the region, and discussed the pressing need for more facilities, not only in Hampton Roads but nationally, that support military families.
In closing, Ronald Lewis thanked the councilmembers for their time and encouraged them to attend the final HRMAC meeting of the year in November 2019.