ABC6 Honors: Director of Veteran Affairs Kasim Yarn
PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Being out with Director of Veteran Affairs for Rhode Island Kasim Yarn is like being out with a celebrity, with people stopping him to say hello and shake his hand, and many times, thank him for his help.
What may seem like a simple hello is actually much more for Director Yarn. For him, it’s one of the most important parts of his job.
"How can you listen to someone and know what their pains are if you're not there beside them?" said Director Yarn.
Meeting as many veterans and those responsible for their care as possible has been his number one priority in his first year as Director.
"I met with each Mayor, Administrator, Manager, face-to-face just like this, talking about how we can help each other," said Yarn.
He continues to travel the state tackling a wide range of veteran’s issues.
"One segment of our veteran population we have our WWII/Korea War vets, uniquely different than today's modern warrior," added Yarn.
He meets with as many as possible and is seemingly at every veteran event, meeting, and ceremony.
On the day ABC6 News shadowed him, Yarn was first in Westerly reading to kids, and then in Bristol overseeing construction of the new V.A. home, and finally in Providence for a meeting about female veteran's health.
From there, ABC6 News was able to interview him. After that Yarn still had three more meetings, and his day ended nearly 12 hours after it started.
"It's been a dream. And when I say I love Rhode Island, I truly love the state, it's given me so much and this is just my role to give back to a state that's given me so much in so many ways," said Yarn.
The Navy first brought Director Yarn to the Ocean State in 1995. That's when he fell in love, not only with the state, but also his wife Rose, who is from Westerly.
After 25 years in the Navy, four deployments to Europe and the Middle East, most recently in 2011, it was time for Yarn to retire last year. But he wasn't done giving back.
Right away he stepped into the previously unfunded and empty position of Director of Veteran Affairs.
"We need to have a voice in government, we need to have a seat at the table, we need to have a cabinet level position that can actively address the needs of our Rhode Island veteran population," said Yarn.
It's now his personal mission to see to it that all 67,000 Rhode Island Veterans and their families have just that. Besides getting to know even more veterans on a personal level this year, Director Yarn's main goals for his second year include making changes to the "Choice Program," which allows veterans to receive care outside the VA medical center and increasing access to geriatric care.