Published in the July 6, 2017 edition
By BILL LAFORME
NORTH READING – The town’s veterans services officer has apparently built a reputation for helping people that extends well beyond the borders of North Reading.
Last month, Debby Andersen, a veteran from Medford, contacted the Transcript to talk about assistance she received from Sue Magner, North Reading director of veterans services, in securing some benefits she had forgotten to apply for after retiring.
Andersen is an Army National Guard veteran who served in the Gulf War back in 1990 and who spent more than 20 years serving as an x-ray tech. In a recent conversation with the Transcript, Andersen recalled how at the end of the war, she and fellow soldiers had thousands of Iraqi POWs on their hands, and how during the hostilities, enemy Scud missiles would occasionally go flying overhead.
Andersen explained that she had always had it in the back of her mind to apply for her military benefits after turning 60, but that she lost some of her paperwork and had been asking around about her situation, including in her own town and finally at the Bedford VA facility. There, an employee reportedly advised her to call Magner, telling Andersen that “it doesn’t matter” if she’s not from North Reading – “She’ll help you.”
Andersen had considerable praise for the effort and devotion that Magner put into helping a veteran regardless of which town she is from. “She’s so preserving, and I always respect perseverance,” said Andersen. “It’s like she likes the challenge.”
In a conversation with the Transcript, Magner said she had been glad to help Andersen apply for her benefits, saying she spent several hours on that particular case and that she had helped veterans in the past with similar situations. She explained that challenges can arise with records from the past when units disbanded, and that tracking such information can involve accessing national records and making numerous phone calls in search of information.
“I don’t turn them away – if they need help, they need help,” said Magner, an Air Force veteran with two sons and a daughter in law in the military.