Stanley Tapuaialupe Iakopo, the newly-appointed executive director of the CNMI Veterans Affairs Office under the Office of the Governor, is passionate about changing, at least in the CNMI, how veterans are provided services.
Iakopo, who is a military veteran himself, is saddened that veterans are not given the support they need. “We celebrate them when they leave but when they come back, we don’t give them the support they need,” he said.
He wants to change that, at least in the Commonwealth, and will work to ensure that veterans are aware of all the benefits they are entitled to.
As a first step, Iakopo said he will work on creating a smoother coordination among all agencies, both federal and local, and all non-profit groups and organizations that have been looking out for the best interest of the island’s veterans. “I want to bridge [any] gap,” he said.
He would also like his agency to partner with the U.S. Department of Defense and other military entities to further explore what CNMI veterans need.
“I’ll ask for the stars and take whatever I can get for our veterans,” he said.
Iakopo said he would also delve deeper into the concerns of veterans because, in just a week in his new post, he said he has already met with several veterans who have expressed a number of concerns that have been overlooked for years.
“Just give us time,” he said.
Veteran Affairs Office program coordinator Vivian Taitano believes that Iakopo can achieve much for the islands’ veterans if he is given the chance.
Iakopo served the U.S. Air Force for 18 years.