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2015-05-07

New veteran service officer reports for duty

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

Pictured: Bandera County Judge Richard Evans welcomed Dennis Birchall as the county's new veterans service office, along with Commissioners Bobby Harris, Bob Grimes, Andy Wilkerson and Jody Rutherford.




Bandera County's new Veteran Service Officer has officially reported for duty.
After culling the field from an amazing of 24 applicants, county commissions interviewed the six candidates left standing during an executive session on Thursday, April 16.
After emerging from the closed session, the court tapped Dennis Birchall as the county's new veteran service officer. He will replace Mary Jo Schaffer, who resigned in February. She had served in the position for almost eight years.
During his 30-year career in the United States Army, Birchall served as both an enlisted man and officer, which gave him experience on both sides of the military coin. He signed up during the Vietnam War as a private. Three years later, after being promoted to sergeant, he was selected for Officers Candidate School. After emerging as a newly minted second lieutenant, Birchall entered the Signal Corps.
His last duty station before retiring in 1997 as a "full bird colonel" - in military parlance - was spent at the Pentagon in Northern Virginia. Since then, Birchall has worked as a support contractor for the Army. He and his wife, Susan Junker - also a retired colonel - moved to Lakehills in 2008.
"I retired totally in 2014," Birchall said in an interview on Monday, April 27. However, it appears his so-called "total retirement" lasted just a little under one year. And, as the new veteran service officer, Birchall has apparently hit the ground running, encountering two problems almost immediately.
According to Birchall, benefits for a veteran of World War II and the widow of a World War II veteran have been delayed due to the absence of required documents, specifically certificates of release or discharge from active duty. Birchall will assist both people obtain the mandatory documents that will enable them to receive their proper benefits.
"My only priority is to make sure that veterans get the benefits they have earned and deserve," Birchall said.
His office hours in Bandera are 8 am to 5 pm, each Monday at the county tax office, 403 East 12th Street, and 1 pm to 5 pm, Thursday at the courthouse annex in Lakehills.
Birchall's telephone number is 830-460-1643. He can be emailed at dbirchall@banderacounty.org.
"Veterans can contact me anytime and I will meet with them," he said. "As I said before, they are my only priority."
Birchall will attend the Texas Veterans Commission (TVC) Initial Training, slated for May 12 through May 15 in Austin. This will be his first step to certification by the TVC.
To Birchall, the Courier says, "Welcome aboard" - even if the phrase is more appropriately used in conjunction with another branch of America's military.