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NEWS | Jan. 8, 2010

Bulgarians explore veteran care in Tennessee

By 2nd Lt. John D. Fesler Tennessee National Guard

NASHVILLE, Tenn., - Members of the Bulgarian Executive Agency of Social Activities of Ministry of Defense visited the Tennessee National Guard in December to learn about the social care of U.S. military veterans.

Started in 1993, the Tennessee-Bulgaria relationship has continued to evolve under the National Guard's State Partnership Program. The program pairs military organizations from different countries with a state's National Guard organization to familiarize, build relationships and learn from each other's strengths.

There are currently 62 partnerships in the State Partnership Program.

"The Tennessee-Bulgaria partnership has been one of the most active since we began in 1993," said retired Maj. Gen. Gus Hargett, Tennessee's former adjutant general. "Over the years, we have had dozens of exchanges with our Soldiers and Airmen going to Bulgaria and members of the Bulgarian military visiting Tennessee to learn about our military structure."

During their visit, led by Bulgarian Air Force Reserve Maj. Manol Tentchev, the group visited the Department of Veteran's Affairs, discussed veteran's affairs with leadership from the AMVETS organization and toured the Tennessee Spine and Rehabilitation Center.

Through an interpreter, Tentchev expressed how impressed he was with how American military veterans are cared for. "Bulgaria does not have the infrastructure to care for veterans the way America does," said Tentchev. "I will take the information learned on this trip back to Bulgaria and hopefully implement some of the processes used in Tennessee.

Gary Trende, chief operating officer of the Tennessee Valley Veteran's Affairs Healthcare System believes the exchange of information between Bulgaria and Tennessee can be very beneficial to continuing the strong relationship between Tennessee and Bulgaria.

"I am proud to have been asked to take part in this event and was happy to discuss the Department of Veterans Affairs dedication to our service members," he said. "Hopefully in the near future, we can take the relationship further and visit Bulgaria and tour their facilities to gain a better understanding of their social care of veterans."