TUPELO • Lee County now has a familiar face ready to assist veterans with any needs they might have. Mike Pettigrew, the commander of the local American Legion post, in July by the Lee County Board of Supervisors as the county’s new veterans service officer.
Pettigrew, a Tupelo native, spent 28 years in active duty service in the military where he was deployed all over the world to countries like Germany, Panama, Bangladesh, Egypt, Afghanistan, Iraq and India. He later retired from the U.S. Army with the rank of lieutenant colonel. After retiring, he moved back home to Tupelo to spend time with his family.
After getting involved with several community organizations, Pettigrew told the Daily Journal at his office that he decided to apply for the county job to directly assist veterans in the area and reshape the way people think about the local veterans service office.
“I saw the opportunity to expand what the VSO does to where we can hopefully develop a model for how other VSOs operate across the state,” Pettigrew said.
A veterans service officer is a county employee who assists veterans and their family by connecting them with different benefits that are available to them through the state and federal government.
Pettigrew replaces Marilyn Reed, who resigned from the position in November 2019 after winning election as Lee County District 2 Justice Court judge. According to Mississippi law, a person must be an honorably discharged military veteran or a surviving spouse or child of a deceased veteran in order to be eligible for the job.
Pettigrew said one area where he wants to reshape the position is to focus more on issues of mental health and homelessness among veterans. Before taking the job, Pettigrew previously helped form a local task force with mental health professionals and other stakeholders to to assist veterans with mental health issues.
“I don’t plan on leading anything, Pettigrew said. “I want to be the catalyst.”
Even though some veterans may have served in the military, they may not meet certain requirements that make them eligible for benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans of Affairs. Pettigrew said he wants to work more closely with veterans who fall into this gap by still getting them assistance they need.
“This is a federal problem that needs a local solution,” he said.
As someone who has applied for veterans’ benefits before, Pettigrew hopes this will provide him with a crucial perspective to relate to local veterans. He understands that the process can sometimes be difficult, but he wants people to know that when they come to him for assistance, that they can put their trust in him and the process.
“I know the process. I’ve seen the good side and the bad side,” he said.
District 1 Supervisor Phil Morgan told the Journal that the county received several good resumes for the job, he was impressed with Pettigrew because he believed he had invaluable experience to handle the job.
“He certainly has his heart in the job,” Morgan said.
If veterans or Lee County residents wish to reach Pettigrew, they can contact him at (662)-432-2099 or email@example.com