I recently had the opportunity to sit down with the Sheridan Veterans Affairs Health Care System’s new public affairs officer Kristina Brockman Miller.
She has been in Sheridan with her husband and kids for a couple of months. Miller and her husband both served in the military and most recently the couple worked in western Washington. Prior to that they spent some time in Washington, D.C., and were stationed in various places across the globe.
Miller and I got to chatting about the boredom that can reside in press releases — canned statements and only pieces of the entire picture. She commiserated with me because she has training and experience as a journalist. She even worked as a television news personality. Stories — engaging tales of the lives of those around us — tend to be much more appealing than basic press releases.
While they have only been here a few months, Miller commented that her family’s welcome to the area has been hearty.
The moving trucks didn’t arrive until a few weeks after the family did, but neighbors and friends offered help with whatever they could — spare towels, sheets, etc.
Her family has been enjoying the open spaces and natural beauty of Wyoming. She also noted that despite having more space between neighbors, she already knows her Sheridan neighbors better than she did her neighbors in Washington.
Weather might require some adjustment. Wyoming winters will include more snow, but Miller said she is excited for the abundant sunshine Sheridan County seems to offer in comparison to western Washington.
Miller and I chatted over a cup of coffee about the community, their move to the area and the VA itself. Since the health care system’s prior full-time public affairs officer left a couple of years ago, the duties of the job have fallen to a variety of others who had other, full-time responsibilities. Juggling all of that isn’t easy.
Sometimes, we observed, the VA has felt like a castle on a hill, removed from the community except for the occasional fall cross-country events.
The fact that many feel so removed from the facility seems odd considering how many people from Sheridan work there. The health care center often comes in among the largest employers in the city.
We talked about that perception and the number of stories that could be told not only about the people who live and work there, but how the services offered affect those in the community and how national policy can affect what is available to our veterans and their families.
If you see Ms. Miller and her family around, be sure to say hello and welcome them to Sheridan County.