Fish is new veterans service officer

Ron Burtz

Custer has been home to Todd Fish for more than 35 years, even as he was world-hopping as a member of the U.S. Army and Reserves. But now he has finally come home to stay and recently took over the job of county veterans service officer.
After growing up in Arlington, Fish enlisted in the Army in 1984 and purchased property here the next year. His parents, David and Jean Fish, left the farm at the same time and have lived here ever since.
He took a short break from the military in 1988 to go back to college. After getting his degree and an officer’s commission, he went back to the Army and retired at the end of November as a colonel. He was commissioned and got married to his wife, Tracy, all in a space of about 60 days.
Over the years of his service, the Fishes moved 18 times (about every two years) and served at U.S. bases in Kentucky, Alaska, Georgia, Virginia, Kansas and Colorado and were also stationed at various times in Germany and Korea. In addition, Fish was deployed seven times, serving in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait and the Balkans.
The Fishes’ two children, Jordan and Joshua, both graduated from college in Germany and now live nearby. Daughter Jordan works for Monument Health in Custer and Joshua is employed by Branch Construction in Hill City.
Since coming back to Custer, Fish has built a house and is ready to put down roots in the Black Hills.
“I love being back home,” said Fish. “I love South Dakota. The people are the best. When we lived all over the world we always said if we found someplace better than South Dakota, and specifically Custer, then we would consider moving there, but we never did.”
After the house was finished and not feeling old enough to retire, Fish said he was ready for a new challenge. Wanting to give something back to the community, he said when the veterans service position came open after the resignation of Jana Virtue, he decided to apply to help other veterans.
With a couple of months’ gap existing between him and his predecessor, Fish has been busy in his first weeks on the job catching up the backlog of business.   
He says his initial goals for the job are to get the word out to veterans that he is there to help, to get more local veterans in the system and to educate them about the benefits available to them.
When Fish took over, 752 veterans were enrolled with the local office, but he noted there are many veterans moving into the area. He is also aware that there may be local veterans and their dependents who have not yet registered with the office.
Fish said part of his job is to play the role of detective. When he sees the obituary of a veteran he will check to see if that person was in the system. If not, he reaches out to the surviving spouse to let them know what benefits are available to them. Sometimes he has gone out of his normal lane to help veterans with other issues and has even given rides to the airport on his own time.
That’s not surprising, given the fact that his own concern for veterans is one of the things that drew him to the position. He said what ultimately sold him on the job, however, was the support and concern for veterans shown by the county commission and other county officials.  
“It was very impressive,” he said.
Fish’s regular hours at the office’s new location in the county annex building across the hall from the library are Monday through Wednesday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. However, he says if veterans are not able to come during those hours he is available to meet with them on their schedule.
He said clients can leave a voicemail at 673-8123 or send an email to and he will contact them to set up an appointment.

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