What does Lake County Veterans Service Officer N.V. "Vince" Sando plan to do in his retirement? Advocate for veterans of Lake County.
"Yes, I figured I will be busier with veteran issues and activities after retirement," Sando said. "Outside of the office, I do more veterans stuff. I'm involved in political and legislative causes and issues. It's just part of the life."
That passion for veterans has served Sando well for the past nine years he's held the CVSO position. He's slated to retire at the end of May and said he's looking forward to continuing to be an advocate — but without the administrative duties.
Sando took the position with the county in 2010 because he already had a passion for serving veterans. That comes from being a veteran himself.
"As a military retiree, a career military person, I've dealt with the Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs for so long," Sando said. "I wanted to make sure the veterans of this county had a qualified representative to champion for their causes."
Sando entered active service in May 1978 and served over 20 years in the U.S. Air Force Security Forces in a variety of locations. Over the years, he supervised or participated in installation defense; combat operations and planning; worldwide security operations supporting nuclear weapons systems and combat and logistic aircraft; and security for presidential, diplomatic and other important personnel. He was rated an expert marksman and trainer for a variety of weapons and served in various bases around the globe.
Sando retired from active service in 1998, when he returned to Two Harbors. He immediately got involved with the VFW and Post 109 American Legion. He joined the local honor guard, which he still serves, to provide military honors at funerals and other important programs.
When he took up the veterans service officer position, he had already served as a veterans service officer for the VFW, but he said the transition was difficult.
"There was a lot of adjustment because doing things at the post level does not prepare you for the intimate knowledge you have to have," Sando said. "You need to intimately know federal law, state law, different types of benefits. We don’t always have time to explain everything but you have to at least know where to look for information."
Over the years, aspects of the job became routine for Sando. For example, he can typically complete a request for records in 15 minutes.
"That's because I do a lot of that," Sando said. "If a person comes in the office looking to learn about benefits and they don't have their discharge papers, that's the first thing I have to do. We can't do anything without that paperwork. So I make a lot of requests."
Sando estimates that he deals with about five in-person requests per day and fields 15-20 phone calls on an average day.
According to Lake County Board of Commissioners chair Rich Sve, Sando's work in veterans advocacy has led to excellent feedback from the public.
"I remember one county board meeting, unbeknownst to Vince, a man came specifically to praise the exemplary work Vince did on his behalf," Sve said. "And that's something that doesn't typically happen."
Sve said he admires Sando for his dedication and passion for his work.
"He really strives to identify and meet with every veteran in Lake County," Sve said. "He strives to get a flag on the gravesites of every veteran in the county before Memorial Day. He truly cares for every person he serves."
County Administrator Matt Huddleston echoed Sve's sentiment, adding that Sando isn't one to care for "warm fuzzies" but he had to share some on the occasion of Sando's retirement.
"He'll be sorely missed," Huddleston said. "He's a unique person with a unique personality. I think it was a hard decision for him to retire as he works so hard and is so effective at his job. I hope he can enjoy the retirement that he's definitely earned."