Updated: Jun 18
Terry Schow champions ‘noble work’ for veterans locally, nationally
By Dana Rimington. Previously published in VALOR, February 2019.
A veteran of the Vietnam War, Terry Schow began helping veterans shortly after he returned home from serving in Southeast Asia. “I was fortunate that the military had allowed me to get an education and a home. I felt an obligation to pay them back, so I did volunteer work in the veteran community,” he said.
However, while Schow was serving on the state’s Veterans Advisory Council, his efforts to help serve veterans became increasingly challenging when the legislature voted to shut down the veterans office in Utah just a few years after the Vietnam War ended. “I was struck by the fact that the legislature felt the state didn’t need a VA. It was a short-sighted decision because all of the other cabinets continued to grow while the veterans were left out.”
Schow recognized that the federal Veterans Affairs program helped, but with the state office closed there was no one in the state advising veterans or helping them out. As a result, he felt a strong urge to try resurrecting the state veterans office so veterans could get the help they deserved.
“I just saw a need and I have a great love for these veterans, many of whom are my dearest friends. I felt like they were left out in the cold,” Schow said. “I was lucky enough to develop the skill set and understanding of the political process, along with the persistence to make a difference.” He began martialing veterans from across the state, many of whom were reluctant to honk their own horn, but he convinced them to help speak to the legislature.
From the late 1970s through the 1990s, Schow was able to restore the state Veterans Affairs Office and keep it going until the state government once again officially recognized the department. For more than 40 years, he has utilized his many connections with veteran service organizations to push
both the state legislature and national Congress for bills and laws for veterans funding, healthcare, education, recognitions, cemeteries, veterans homes and centers.
At the time Schow first started his uphill battle, Utah was below the national average for veterans receiving funds for disabilities or injuries that occurred because of their military service, or those enrolled in VA healthcare.
“I was probably not smart enough to realize how hard the process of helping veterans was going to be. One of the senators on the floor of the Utah senate said I was pain in the butt. Another time a senator told me they weren’t happy with me because I pushed too hard,” Schow said. “I didn’t take offense,
but rather saw it as a badge of honor. I knew my veterans, the public and the media were supporting me through it all, so I just kept my head down and kept pushing. I knew it was right, especially since Utah was below the national average in helping veterans. I was doing the Lord’s work by looking after veterans.”
Schow says he can’t underscore how difficult it was to go from a small office to a cabinet level position. “Cabinet members were astounded that we were able to do that, but the public loves the military and the governor supported us, so even though there was turmoil getting us there, we were able to successfully open up the Department of Veterans Affairs.”
The governor appointed Schow as the department director of the newly reconstituted office, so he began working in earnest to beef up operations. “We had been severely underfunded, so it was difficult to get what we needed when we were still just a small office, but as a separate department, we got to present our own needs,” Schow said. Since then, he admits the situation is better than it was all those years ago, but it’s still just important to make sure the veterans aren’t forgotten.
Among his greatest accomplishments, Schow counts the building of four veterans homes and the state’s veterans cemetery. “It took so many years prior to even getting to that point, building up relationships and understanding the process.”
Currently, Schow is working hard to push for questions about veterans affairs in the 2020 census. A few years ago, Schow helped set up a veterans database in Utah. The numbers currently show 180,000 veterans in Utah, which is larger than the 140,000 veterans currently on record by the federal government. “When we can get the hard, imperial data with increased numbers, we can get more allocations for veterans funding,” Schow said.
Schow looks back to when he first began pushing for help with veterans affairs and is struck by how far those initial efforts have come. “Back then, some said this day would never come. When we finally resurrected the State Veterans Affairs Office, I worked for long hours for low pay, but I just kept on
pushing,” Schow said. “Now, the Utah Department of Veterans and Military Affairs is a full cabinet position. Who would have realized we could have done all this? I’m proud to serve in some small way, as this is indeed noble work.”
Dana Rimington has more than 15 years covering stories involving education, military, government and business in northern Utah. She focuses her efforts as a marketing content writer for businesses across the country.
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