SAUGUS — The town’s veterans agent came out of retirement to serve those who served.
Jay Pinette, a 63-year-old Wakefield resident who retired from the U.S. Marine Corps, came out of retirement to try to help others in March.
During his military career, Pinette said there were times he bargained with a higher power “get me out of this and I’ll give more back than take.”
Pinette served from 1973 to 1996 and in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Following his retirement from the Marine Corps, he worked for a medical device company making heart pumps that helped patients while they waited for heart transplants.
“I wasn’t looking for a job and I didn’t need a job,” he said. “I realize there is a need here and I’ve still got plenty of good working years in front of me. As long as I’m able to help people I’ll keep doing it. Whenever you can be helping people, especially veterans, it’s a good thing.”
Pinette said he’s hesitant to call his new role a job because he’s helping veterans and their families.
His main focus is to help connect low income veterans and their dependents to the benefits they are entitled to, including money for medical and housing needs.
Saugus is part of a Veterans Service District run out of Melrose that also includes Wakefield. The director is a retired U.S. Air Force flight nurse and the veterans service officer in Wakefield is a U.S. Navy veteran.
One of Pinette’s goals is to do more community outreach and connect more veterans with services that can help them, he said. It could be as simple as visiting the Senior Center and Senior Housing Authority complexes, but there’s also a need to connect with younger veterans.
“I can tell you with a great deal of certainty that the vast majority of clients I have are Korean, World War II, and some Vietnam-era veterans,” said Pinette. “I’d hate to classify that as something that goes in every community, but I think there’s a problem in fraternal organizations and probably the (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs) and other organizations in engaging younger veterans, whether they are unaware of the benefits or reluctant to reach out. I think think it’s all of the above.”
He encourages all veterans to reach out for help before they desperately need it. There’s no harm in veterans visiting his office to see what benefits they are entitled to, even if they’re not entitled to anything, he said.
“I have heard that people are reluctant to reach out for benefits because they feel like they’re taking benefits away from other veterans,” said Pinette. “That’s not something that happens. This is something that people are entitled to and if you’re entitled to benefits then you should get them. My job is to facilitate that.”