Retired Army officer never stopped helping other veterans
As part of the volunteer team at VITAS Healthcare’s Veterans Recognition Program, retired United States Air Force Lt. Col. Judith Mathewson presents patriotic teddy bears and certificates of recognition to the individuals for their military service.
Photo courtesy of Judith Mathewson
A career serving her country easily segued into a volunteer ministry for retired United States Air Force Lt. Col. Judith Mathewson.
Since her retirement from the military in 2016, Mathewson has devoted her time to helping active duty military members and veterans.
Actually, she is not quite retired, because with a Ph.D. in marital and family therapy, Mathewson is more than qualified to operate Growth Solutions Counseling in Melbourne. In addition to serving the community at large, her practice focuses on helping veterans adjust to civilian life and on the issues affecting military couples and families.
The Kansas City native can boast about a family deeply entrenched in the military code of honor. Her mother served as a Navy nurse during World War II, while her father was a Marine who fought in both World War II and Korea. One of her sisters retired from the U.S. Army as a major general, while a brother retired from the California Army National Guard. Three nephews enlisted in the U.S. Army and another brother, who had been active in Reserve Officer Training Corps, joined the Peace Corps to serve in Afghanistan. A cousin remains Missing In Action in Vietnam.
Mathewson was a resident of Alaska for 21 years, serving in the Alaska Air National Guard.
“We did a lot of search and rescue,” she said.
An assignment with the Air Force from 2004 to 2009 introduced her to Brevard County, where she and her husband bought an eventual retirement house. That retirement would not occur until she completed stints as director of the Office of Equal Opportunity for the National Guard Bureau in Arlington, Virginia and as deputy commander for the 188th. Wing’s Mission Support Group in Fort Smith, Arkansas.
Upon returning to Brevard, Mathewson wasted no time in getting involved with volunteer organizations. She is co-founder of Welcome Home Vets, a non-profit she helped to launch while stationed at Patrick Air Force Base in 2006. She wrote and was awarded Brevard’s first-of-its-kind grant to provide mental health supportive services and financial assistance for returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.
Since 1994, she has been involved with TAPS, the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, aimed at surviving spouses and families of fallen military. Locally, she also co-founded the Good Grief Camp for Young Survivors.
As a Space Coast Honor Flight volunteer, Mathewson also has served as one of the guardians who escorts Brevard veterans on the flight to visit military memorials in Washington, D.C.
Mathewson joined the volunteer team at VITAS Healthcare to make a difference with the vets in the organization’s Veterans Recognition Program, helping them to receive the benefits to which they are entitled and assisting family members with funeral issues. Part of her duties include presenting a certificate of recognition to the individuals for their military service, along with a patriotic teddy bear on behalf of VITAS and the community. The mementos are cherished by the families after their veteran passes away.
Mathewson’s counseling background helps her with the grief she experiences at the loss of one of “her” patients. Meeting the courageous men and women is a privilege she would not trade.
“It’s been such a blessing,” she said.
To date, she has supported more than 400 veterans in hospice care.
“Just because you are retired, it doesn’t mean you have to stop giving back,” she said.