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    IRT brings a different perspective of the military to Chenango County

    During the IRT, Donna Jones reflects on her father’s medals received from WWII

    Photo By Maj. Satomi Mack-Martin | Donna Jones, planning director for Chenango County, reflects on her father's honorable...... read more read more



    Story by Maj. Satomi Mack-Martin 

    3rd Medical Command Deployment Support

    NORWICH, N.Y. – “I really saw a whole different side that I never expected from the military.”

    “What they did for the community in 10 days, I have so much respect for them,” said Donna Jones, director of planning for Chenango County. “They have a place of honor now, with me.”

    Southern Tier East Regional Planning Development Board, Chenango County, and Chenango United Way, are responsible for bringing the Innovative Readiness Training (IRT) event to Chenango for the second year, where service members from the Army Reserve, Navy Reserve, and Air National Guard provide medical, dental, optometry, and veterinary services at no-cost to community members.

    Greater Chenango is one of the IRT events that provide real-world training opportunities in a joint civil-military environment while delivering world-class medical care to the people of Norwich, N.Y., from July 15-24, held at Norwich High School.

    “I was sitting at my desk at 4:30 p.m. on a Friday afternoon,” describes Jones. “Usually I like to sneak out around 4 p.m. on Fridays. So it was a lil’ unusual that I happen to be sitting at my desk, actually. But, I received a call from the executive director from our regional planning development board, and he asked if we wanted to partner on a grant application with the Department of Defense,” she said.

    Jones was instrumental in getting the application for the IRT grant filled out.

    “I knew from census data that our department has collected and from the federal census data that we definitely were an underserved community,” stated Jones. “And I just knew we really needed it so I said ‘yes, we’ll partner with you’, not knowing if we would ever get it. We’ve never gotten a federal grant before. But we were awarded the grant.”

    Jones went on to say that there was only one doctor for every 2,700 people in the county. Even if residents have insurance, she stated that it’s often hard for them to get appointments, and a lot of people do not have insurance in the area.

    Even if residents in the Chenango area have medical insurance, are under-insured, or uninsured, there are no income requirements to attend, nor is identification needed.

    “I had no idea how it was gonna turn out,” Jones said. “Everybody has seen M*A*S*H on television, so you kind of think, okay, maybe it’s like that. But it was nothing like that.”

    “I saw 170 service members come to our area,” added Jones, “and then 24 to 36 hours, they set up tents, they set up clinics, they set up operating rooms to spay and neuter the animals, and they just bring in these connex boxes, they put air conditioning in the school, and you’re just in awe and amazed that they can do this.”

    Some of the services provided at no-cost include: dental examinations, cleanings, fillings, simple extractions, medical screenings for diabetes, blood pressure, depression, fall risk assessments, nutritional counseling, physical therapy, vision examinations, single-focal prescription glasses manufactured on-site and ready for pick-up within 24 hours. Spay, neuter and rabies vaccinations for cats and dogs are also available.

    Jones personal connection in working to bring the IRT to Chenango goes back to being the youngest of six kids growing up. Her father served in the Army during WWII where he was wounded in action on Feb. 23, 1945, in Germany, and received a Purple Heart.

    With care, Jones lays out onto the table in the tactical operating center within Norwich High School, a copy of her father’s honorable discharge document from an aged-leather binder, old envelopes with handwritten letters to his mother, a ten-dollar bill described as a silver certificate, a twenty-dollar bill dated from 1934, metal identification tags, pictures of him at 18-years-old, and an old patch with his rank of Private.

    When asked how she maintains the items, she stated that she keeps them in a wooden box that belonged to her father, who passed away when she was 11-years-old.

    “I never knew much about the military because my father didn’t want to talk about it,” explained Jones.

    “I had known about my uncle Leslie, who was a prisoner of war and missing in action. Didn’t know much more,” she said. “I heard bits and pieces, like my Aunts had gone to Hawaii to have their DNA taken. I knew that they knew what prisoner of war camp he was in and where he was buried. But that’s about all I knew.”

    “So what I knew of the military, was very disheartening,” stated Jones. “And, and, when we applied for this, I knew we were an underserved community. And it would really help the community. And I wanted to see, get a different view of the military other than what I had.”

    Jones said that what she witnessed with the care provided by the service members during the IRT, changed her way of thinking based on what she saw them do and how they cared for the community, and that she has a greater respect for the military.

    During the distinguished visitors day, Jones spoke as a representative from Chenango County and shared her experience in getting the application approved for the Chenango area. With that, she discussed her family’s military history and how working with the service members during the IRT gave her a deeper perspective of what it may have been like for her father and uncle, who also served in the military.

    “So, umm, I never expected to witness and be apart of what I saw,” Jones stated. “So I think that’s why I really have such regards for the service members now.”

    Innovative Readiness Training events have been held in underserved communities for years, across the country. One of the main goals with IRTs is to fortify and strengthen the bond between American citizens and the U.S. military, by showcasing the diversity and operational excellence of those who work together to secure the nation’s freedom.

    For more information on IRTs or the IRT conducted in the Greater Chenango Cares area, visit: or



    Date Taken: 07.23.2016
    Date Posted: 07.24.2016 02:27
    Story ID: 204873
    Location: NORWICH, NY, US 
    Hometown: ATLANTA, GA, US
    Hometown: NORWICH, NY, US
    Hometown: SALISBURY, NC, US

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