Our Veterans, welcome home

I just spotted Paul Rieckhoff, the Executive Director of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, on CNN. The IAVA is an amazing resource for our recent veterans and has been pivotal in the fight for better services and future employment for our recent vets. Many times a story on this site is directly from information at the IAVA site. In watching CNN Paul said a really important thing, while it isn't a direct quote its roughly translated like this "It doesn't matter your view on the war, or who you voted for last week, it's time to rally around our veterans"

Checking out the IAVA site, I noticed the new partnership that the IAVA has with the Ad Council, the message "you are not alone"

From the Ad Council post at YouTube:
The mental health consequences of combat threaten to overwhelm a new generation of veterans. There are 1.7 million men and women who have served, or are currently serving, in Iraq and Afghanistan. ...
The mental health consequences of combat threaten to overwhelm a new generation of veterans. There are 1.7 million men and women who have served, or are currently serving, in Iraq and Afghanistan. About 1 in 5 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are suffering from a mental health injury, ranging from depression to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), as a result of their service.

Less than 1% of the U.S. population has served or is serving in the current conflicts and when they return home, their sense of isolation is often magnified. This campaigns long-term objective is to decrease the depression and PTSD-related outcomes among returning Vets by taking a two-pronged approach encouraging Veterans to join other Veterans at the first ever online community exclusive to OIF/OEF Vets, and separately, to empower their Friends and Family by helping them learn how to start constructive conversations. The challenges facing returning vets are myriad but with support from other Veterans, family, and friends the issues can be effectively dealt with.

The AFL-CIO blog has also posted on our veterans
Honoring U.S. Vets by Ensuring They Get Jobs

It’s wonderful that we, as a nation, set aside a day to honor America’s brave men and women who have risked their lives for our country throughout the centuries and continue to do so today. But our troops now stationed in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere need more than just Veterans Day set aside for them in November. When they come back from combat, they need jobs to support themselves and their families in careers that put to work the skills they learned in the service.

Helmets to Hardhats, founded in 2003 by the AFL-CIO’s Building and Construction Trades Department (BCTD) unions, together with employers with union workforces, has since helped more than 5,000 military vets find new careers as electricians, plumbers, roofers and other skilled trades, says Darrel Roberts, executive director of Helmets to Hardhats.

The Helmets to Hardhats program is unique in that it was created with the singular intent of helping National Guard, Reservists and transitioning active-duty military members connect to career opportunities in the construction industry, one of the last bastions of solid middle-class wages for working Americans. Helmets to Hardhats recognizes this and is committed to placing veterans in careers that provide family-supporting wages, good benefits and a decent chance at realizing the American dream.

Helmets to Hardhats helps match vets and soon-to-be vets with apprenticeship and training programs offered by the BCTD’s 15 unions. Veterans can use their GI Bill education benefits as they complete the certified apprentice programs.

Recently, the group launched the Wounded Warriors program to help veterans with service-related disabilities find meaningful career paths in the construction industry. Among the information and tools provided, the Wounded Warrior program lists career opportunities that employers have specifically identified as potentially suitable for veterans with disabilities.

Navy veteran Mark Young, now a member of the Insulators (AWIU) Local 6, took part in the Helmets to Hardhats apprenticeship program, and says it

seemed like the perfect way for me to get into the building and construction trades while using my military experience as an added bonus.

Military veterans make ideal candidates for apprenticeship in the construction industry, according to Helmets to Hardhats, because it makes economic sense to leverage military training in apprenticeship programs for former members of our armed forces whose service to our country should provide them with strong job opportunities.

The program is run by the Center for Military Recruitment, Assessment, and Veterans Employment, a labor management committee created by the BCTD and employer associations. It is funded by the U.S. Department of Defense. In April, President-elect Barack Obama told the BCTD legislative conference:

I applaud your partnership with Helmets to Hardhats. I believe we have a responsibility to serve our soldiers as well as they’re serving us, and by helping make sure they have the skills to work in the trades when they come home, you’re living up to that responsibility. As president, I’ll support funding for this critical program.

Former Marine Corps radio operator Patrick Morgan, who served two tours in Iraq, is now an apprentice with Iron Workers Local 3 in Pittsburgh. He heard about the program before he was discharged and told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:

It sounded like something I really wanted to do….I’m learning a lot and they’ve been nothing but good to me.

For more information, visit the Helmets to Hardhats website here. For veterans with service-connected disabilities, visit the program’s Wounded Warrior section.

A huge shout out to retired UA Local 638 Steamfitter Gene Jackson for all he does in spreading awareness about the Wounded Warriors Project, and for making sure these men and women coming back are not forgotten.

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