New veterans’ service officer directs four-town district
By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Region – After serving in the Iraq War and gaining work experience statewide, Viviana Marcotte welcomes the opportunity to help local veterans and their families close to her home community. She began Feb. 2 as the new director of the Central Massachusetts Veterans’ Services District (CMVSD), which consists of Grafton, Northborough, Shrewsbury and Westborough. Marcotte lives in Grafton and grew up mostly in Marlborough.
“When I took this position I was hopeful that I’d be able to give back to my community because I was raised in central Massachusetts,” she said. “I’m finding in my first few weeks working here that veterans are unaware of so many resources. My main mission is connecting them with resources at the federal, state and local levels.”
Marcotte enlisted in the Army in 1999. She was stationed in Fort Devens and Boston, then trained in Texas. In 2005 through 2006, she was deployed to the Iraq War in the 883rd Medical Company to provide mental health services. Responsibilities included clinical administration and peer support. Their challenge, Marcotte noted, was helping service members while they coped with similar situations themselves.
“You need to be there as their peer and also assist the councilors overseeing their clinical diagnoses,” she said. “For me, it was challenging because these men and women were living the same day-to-day experiences as we were – the daily explosions and being in imminent fire. You need to help bring them down from this constant state of hypervigilance.”
Outlets to ease stress were commonly delivered in care packages sent overseas from families and organizations. Marcotte would circulate among service members with art supplies, games, journals and sports equipment. Sometimes, simply taking a walk and talking helped.
“It was an all-around tough mission, but extremely rewarding,” she said. “They would come into the clinic shutdown and defensive, and leave a lot more open to talk about their issues.”
Upon returning home, Marcotte finished her studies at Framingham State University (FSU), where she earned a bachelor’s degree in communications with a minor in psychology. She’s currently studying online for a master’s degree in human services, military resilience and trauma from Liberty University in Virginia.
After graduating from FSU in 2009, she worked in 2010 as a veteran employment representative for the Massachusetts Department of Workforce Development. Among her duties was preparing veterans to become job ready.
“Veterans don’t promote themselves well on their resumes,” Marcotte noted. “In the military, we’re so used to bullet statements, so veterans have a hard time elaborating on their leadership skills.”
For the past six years, Marcotte worked as the woman veterans’ state coordinator for the Massachusetts Department of Veterans’ Services.
“My goal was to inform people across the state of the unique needs that female military veterans have,” she said. “It’s the fastest growing segment of our military.”
She strove to achieve her goal with a number of events for women veterans such as an annual conference. In 2015, over 380 attended the conference held at the Best Western Royal Plaza Hotel in Marlborough.
“We want to make sure that women veterans are acknowledging themselves as veterans, and have social networks to support and empower them,” she explained. “We increased our database of about 13,000 women veterans to about 20,500.”
Marcotte envisions similar events and social networking among all veterans within the central Massachusetts district.
“A lot of cities and towns aren’t taking advantage of some incredible resources and presentations that the state offers,” she said. “Bringing resource and wellness fairs here would be great. We can include private companies and organizations who are willing to donate their time, and bring the four towns together as a community. Hopefully, we can accomplish some of that this year.”
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