Youth & Opportunity
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By: Vincent J. Perrone, President & CEO, Veterans Inc.
Note: This post is part of a weeklong celebration of U.S. military veterans. You can find more stories and resources at the Microsoft Citizenship website.
When Veterans Inc. opened its doors to nine homeless veterans in 1992 it was a small, grass-roots, all-volunteer organization offering cots in an abandoned National Guard Armory. Since then it has grown into a professional, comprehensive organization, recognized nation-wide for the success of its innovative programs. Veterans Inc. has helped more than 40,000 veterans and their families to overcome homelessness, to create hope, and to live lives of dignity they so richly deserve. In the words of Chung Tran, a current Veterans Inc. resident,
“This program makes us feel like we’re a part of society again. After being a vet who was injured I didn’t feel I belonged anywhere. When I stepped through the door I felt welcomed and began to feel a sense of my self worth. Without the help I received I would not be trying to go back to school or moving on with my life - I am truly grateful.”
Veterans Inc. has created a nationally recognized clinical model for preventing and ending homelessness among veterans that uses a mix of programs and services such as: Case Management, Emergency Shelter, Supportive Housing, Employment and Training, Health & Wellness, and targeted Outreach programs. Services affirm each individual’s dignity, uncover his or her inner strengths, and promote self-determination and independence. Says Tran,
Photo courtesy of Worcester Magazine, Steven King photographer
“It’s hard to find a program where people are truly concerned about veterans. A lot of people pay lip-service to veterans. Veterans Inc. is really in there and helping and they truly appreciate what veterans have done.”
With troops now coming home from Iraq, Veterans Inc. is poised to provide services for soldiers who return to New England with PTSD and other combat-related problems, few resources, and fragile social networks that leave them nowhere else to turn.
Access to employment and training opportunities is critical to preventing homelessness. Veterans Inc. is committed to creating security for soldiers and their families as they return to civilian jobs, especially at this time of record unemployment. Responding to the emerging needs of veterans is what Veterans Inc. is all about. The Microsoft Elevate America Veterans Initiative will allow Veterans Inc. to reach out to soldiers we have not been able to help before: veterans of the National Guard, Reservists, and their spouses. We are thrilled to collaborate with Microsoft to make this happen.
Find out more about Veterans Inc at their website.
Vincent J. Perrone, President & CEO, Veterans Inc.
More veterans resources:
The American Legion has something to offer everyone connected to the veteran community. The American Legion Burn Pit Blogmaster shares some of the stories we’ve followed this year.
When I came back from my first war (Bosnia-Herzegovina), The American Legion offered me a job. Two years after I returned from my second war (Afghanistan), the Legion gave me my dream job. I'm the "New Media Manager of The American Legion." To everyone else, I'm the company blogger. And in the past two years I've done things both grand and mundane on behalf of our nation’s veterans, their families and all who are served by the nation’s largest veterans service organization. And I have loved every minute of it.
Here is why:
I've played golf against a Special Forces soldier who was wounded in Afghanistan. He beat me by about 20 strokes, never mind he played on two legs made of titanium. He learned early on that he would have to embrace the "new normal" that proscribed his reality of living without the legs he was born with, and never once did he seem to even be bothered by it. What's done is done, after all.
I helped return a Purple Heart Citation to the family of the man who earned it with his death on D-Day. He was Sgt. Richard Owen, once of rural Indiana, and then of Winchester, Va. At one point, he served in the exact same unit I later did during my time in the service: the 116th Infantry Regiment of the 29th Infantry Division. But the unit he served with on the day of his death would eclipse even the legacy of my own hallowed unit, for Sgt. Owen died as a member of Echo Company of the 101st Airborne, the "Band of Brothers" made so famous by the HBO series of the same name.
I fought back tears as I watched a Marine with neither legs nor eyes that could see compete in swimming at the Warrior Games at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. All the other competitors were finished before this Marine completed one third of the route. And none of those competitors exited the pool, but rather awaited their brother in arms, cheering as he navigated the 100-meter pool. That Marine waved off all help, and continued to the end, and was the victor, simply by finishing.
I watched as country music star Clay Walker made a dying Marine’s wish come true by recognizing him by name and singing his favorite song while he sat in the front row. Hours later, the Marine succumbed to cancer. And when The American Legion put out the call for more contributions to ensure that this brave hero could be buried next to his grandfather and that his 7-year-old son would be cared for, I received a check for $15,000 from an organization run by San Francisco Giants pitcher Barry Zito. This, even as Zito was preparing for the home stretch of a season that would see the Giants win the National League Championship.
I highlighted on my blog the man who I believe should have been the 2009 Athlete of the Year, a fellow military blogger named J.R. Salzman. J.R. was a six-time World Log Rolling Champion from Menomonie, Wis., when he deployed to Iraq as a sergeant with the 34th Infantry Division. While there he would earn the coveted Combat Infantryman's Badge. He would also lose his right arm, and have his left hand pulverized. Despite a brain injury that causes him short-term memory loss, J.R. came home to go back to college. And despite having to get used to a prosthetic limb, J.R. would go on to win the 2009 World Log Rolling Championship. And earlier this year he and his wife Josie, who stood by his side during his long recovery, had their first child.
There aren't too many jobs that allow you to take an active part in so many things in such a short period of time. But working for The American Legion, these once-in-a-lifetime opportunities come around roughly once a month. Everyone knows abstractly what The American Legion does. They know of our post homes, parades and flag retirement services. Children and young adults know of our American Legion baseball program, and our Boys and State and Boys Nation Programs, our Oratorical Contest and Junior Shooting Sports competitions. Some even know about our efforts on behalf of wounded veterans who are trying to get the services owed to them by virtue of their sacrifices. Others know of our extensive lobbying efforts to ensure that Congress also is reminded of the debt we owe these men and women.
The American Legion is all those things, and much, much more. If you are a veteran, a family member of a veteran, or just someone concerned about what is happening with our veterans and servicemembers, drop on by our website at www.legion.org and take a look around. I guarantee that whether you have never heard of the Legion, or have been a member for 20 years, we'll show you something we are doing that you didn't know about.
American Legion Burn Pit
Today, on Veterans Day, we take some time to celebrate, honor and remember our United States military veterans. At Microsoft, we are especially proud to recognize and thank our colleagues who have selflessly served our country and continue to do so through the National Guard and Reserves.
As greater numbers of men and women return from active duty, we know that these individuals and their families need our support, expertise and resources to help them transition successfully back to civilian life.
From a Microsoft perspective there are two elements to this.
As we announced yesterday our Elevate America veterans initiative is focused on working with a coalition of public, private and nonprofit organizations around the country to contribute expertise, cash and in-kind resources to give US veterans and their spouses the skills and resources they need such as career counseling, technology skills training, job placement and additional support services like childcare, transportation, and housing.
As an employer, Microsoft has a long history of supporting the military and veteran community as evidenced by the growing veterans community at Microsoft. We recognize the qualities that veterans bring and this was one of the driving forces behind the creation of our Military2Microsoft program.
The program has been created in association with our veterans and has been designed to assist people transitioning from the U.S. military and those serving in the National Guard and Reserve to find job opportunities within Microsoft.
Military2Microsoft includes a range of resources to help make the job search experience easier for veterans such as our new site: WeStillServe.com, which connects transitioning military members to Microsoft’s employee-initiated group of veterans and helps match candidates to job opportunities within the company. The site includes a range of resources including:
Today is a great moment to recognize the selfless contribution of our veterans. We hope, in a small way that we’re making a positive contribution to helping them make the transition to civilian life.
Scott Pitasky is Corporate Vice President, Human Resources Talent & Organization Capability Group
By: Bo Hussey, Vice President, Marketing & Communications, Goodwill Industries of the Southern Piedmont
What a great opportunity we now have at Goodwill Industries of the Southern Piedmont to serve our country’s heroes. Thanks to the Elevate America Veterans grant and our partnership with Central Piedmont Community College, we are able to provide job skills training and supportive services for military veterans and their families.
We’ve already assembled a phenomenal team in Nicholas Riggins and Wanda Weeks to provide these services. Both have lived the military lifestyle and are passionate about helping others make the difficult transition to civilian life.
After marrying an active duty Air Force member, Nicholas enlisted for basic training and specialty training at Lackland AFB in San Antonio in 2001. He served in the Air Force for seven years, including temporary duty assignments to Bahrain and Qatar. After leaving Andrews AFB in 2008, Nicholas moved to Charlotte and worked through the difficulties in making the transition.
“It was difficult moving to a new area without the comfort of a military installation,” Nicholas said. “I’m passionate about this program and I hope to help others transition successfully to the civilian sector.”
Wanda has worked with Goodwill for four years and has over 15 years of experience working with families and individuals to enhance their employability skills. She and her husband, Robert, have lived in Charlotte for the past nine years after being stationed at several different duty stations while Robert served in the United States Army for 20 years. They are both actively involved with the Veterans of Foreign Wars activities that support veterans and their families.
“My father served in the Army and he always taught us about the importance of supporting those who fight for our freedom,” Wanda said. “I am a very passionate person and treasure this opportunity to work hard for those dearest to my heart: veterans. I know that freedom is not free, there is a woman, man, son, daughter, brother, sister, husband or wife right now giving up their freedom and family time to serve our country.”
With this combination of experience and passion at Goodwill, we know our veterans and their families will be in good hands while making their transition home.
Bo Hussey, Vice President, Marketing & Communications, Goodwill Industries of the Southern Piedmont
The US elections are just over and the major concern and worry we all share is the economy and the future of our jobs. With the overall unemployment numbers still very high this anxiety is real. Often when I speak with colleagues about training programs they roll their eyes and ask me why start another training program when there are no jobs available.
If we follow their logic there is nothing we can do. However, as I travel the country and meet people from all walks of life, I hear a different story. People still want new skills that will increase their opportunities for a job. A little while ago Linda Arellano tweeted after we launched our Elevate America program thanking us for this support. She has been unemployed for over two years and believes that training will help her.
While the overall unemployment rate for the U.S. remains steady at 9.6 percent, veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars return home to face an unemployment rate 20 percent greater than that of civilians. This got us thinking and just under a year ago Microsoft gathered a group of experts together to start a series of discussions about the issues and challenges facing our nation’s veterans, particularly concerning the transition to civilian employment. We wanted to understand how we could extend our Elevate America program to support them. We saw that in under two years after the introduction of the Elevate America program over 900,000 people signed up for training. We felt that for our veterans we need to have a different program and that there was a lot to learn. We were right on both counts.
Last month, we reconvened this original group, plus six additional organizations at our headquarters in Redmond, Washington, to talk about how we could put what we’ve learned into action. It was both heartwarming to hear how these organizations are facing up to the challenge to support our returning veterans but also concerning when you hear the breadth of challenges they face. The discussion centered on what we could collectively do to support them in a manner whereby the benefits are tangible and real. The result is the Elevate America veterans initiative.
The Elevate America veterans initiative builds on our Elevate America program to address our veterans - a community typically underserved with the support they need to make the leap from the military to civilian workforce. More than half of today’s jobs require some technology skills, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that will reach 77 percent in the next decade.
We have been fortunate to work with an advisory group - the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), The American Legion, Paralyzed Veterans of America, United Service Organizations (USO), and the Wounded Warrior Project – who were able to bring the benefit of their direct experience with veterans across the country into our planning around this program. The veterans initiative goes beyond our existing Elevate America programs because it couples technology skills training with ancillary services such as career counseling, job placement, childcare, transportation, and housing services.
Today, we are proud to announce result of this work. There are six nonprofit recipients of our Elevate America veterans initiative grants who will provide new education, job training and placement programs to help give veterans and their spouses the skills and resources they need to be successful in today’s civilian work force. Through these grants, Microsoft is providing $2 million in cash and up to $6 million in software and information technology (IT) skills training curriculum to the following organizations:
Each of these organizations and their partners represent a unique program and service model, serving veterans and spouses across the country. Together, we hope that we can learn best practices, share models that work well and ultimately help scale these efforts broadly to meet the needs of the thousands of veterans and spouses who could benefit from this type of support.
As we approach Veterans Day we hope that our work with these organizations goes a small way towards recognizing the contributions and sacrifices of our veterans. They deserve all the support we can provide.
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