Our veterans deserve more than remembrance — they need solutions
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On Memorial Day, we honor those who died while serving to protect our great country. The Salute to Veterans Series raises awareness for ongoing life issues that our veterans and troops face daily. The nationally and internationally broadcast program is hosted by PBS news anchor Judy Woodruff, whose father served in the U.S. Army, and is familiar firsthand with the daily issues facing military families.

Our service men and women deserve more than just acknowledgment: they need solutions for these important matters. The Salute to Veterans Series offers solutions by featuring intimate discussions with three distinguished veterans who are also successful businessmen, community leaders, and accomplished athletes: Rocky Bleier, Greg Gadson and Chad Hennings. They have discussed steps for creating and maintaining fulfilling opportunities for our active duty service personnel and our veterans.

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Often the needed enhancement in the lives of our servicemen and women comes in the form of burgeoning career and educational advancement opportunities, which can leverage the specific skill sets that our veterans and troops have developed through their military service. It may seem simple to state that merely “enhancement opportunities” can change the lives of our nation’s our 22 million veterans and their families, and prepare our 3.3 million U.S. active duty service members and reservists. But while great progress has been made overall among veteran employment nationally, hundreds of thousands of transitioning service men and women will continue to enter the workforce over the next few years.

 

Employment statistics among older veterans can also be improved. Among the 453,000 unemployed veterans last year, 60 percent were age 45 and over, 36 percent were age 25 to 44, and 4 percent were age 18 to 24, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Many opportunities remain where the unique skill sets of our veterans and troops can positively impact large and small business operations and enhance community leadership positions across the United States.

Often unemployment or underemployment is at the heart of the varied pressing issues military families face daily, including obtaining affordable housing and continuing education — while adjusting to civilian life and juggling family needs and responsibilities. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that nearly one in three employed veterans with a service-connected disability worked in the public sector in August 2016, compared with about one in five veterans with no disability. Hopefully, more industries can follow the lead of the public sector in hiring and retaining veterans with a service-connected disability, and veterans overall.

Too often employers don’t recognize that our troops and veterans are not only heroes among us, but they are a stellar stream of sought after talent. Our veterans are accustomed to working under great pressure, meeting deadlines, and working as part of a unit towards goals and objectives. In the same way, many veterans sometimes do not wish to brag about self-accomplishment when employment opportunities are presented to them, which is somewhat customary in the corporate world.

This is very different from the selfless dedication learned as part of exemplary team spirit they abide by during military service. The opportunities for continued veteran employment and career retention are limitless, with mentoring and investment in veteran employees at companies large and small, combined with veteran employee resource groups and other support initiatives growing nationally over the past few years. It will also add immense value — both short and long term — to a vast number of companies in their goals and objectives.

Our aim should be to bring attention to military families’ primary issues such as overcoming injury both seen and unseen, adjusting to civilian life following military service, veteran employment, education, housing, and community leadership. It is critical that all veterans and military service members and their families across the country and around the world are aware of the resources and solutions that are available to them which address their needs. All military holidays need to become special honor days, when our veterans and troops are recognized and progress can be made on the top issues veterans face daily.

Cyrus Zol is the creator of the Salute to Veterans Seriesa national television series that honors and pays tribute to our nation’s veterans, active duty service members, military families and supporters.


The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.