11 Nov What Veterans Day Means in Denver

I just got off the phone with my son who is an Infantry Officer in the army.  With his wry sense of humor, he thanked me for single-handedly winning the Cold War.  His wise crack did make me think about spending two weeks in Germany in 1984 in a training exercise designed as a show of force for the Soviet Union.  I don’t know how intimidating we were sitting in a muddy “hide” for two weeks looking for a single, “signature” vehicle, because the wall didn’t come down for five more years!

This was an interesting week from a veterans’ perspective.  The sterling career and presidential aspirations for David Petraeus were obliterated in one fell swoop.  The National Alliance to End Homelessness indicates, “The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that veterans between the ages of 25 and 34, who make up more than half of post-9/11 veterans, had a 2011 unemployment rate of 12 percent, compared with 9.3 percent for nonveterans. Among veterans aged 18 to 24, the unemployment rate is much higher — 30.2 percent.  All of these factors contribute to an increased risk of homelessness for returning veterans, even though they have higher education levels (62 percent of veterans over the age of 25 have at least some college compared with 56.4 percent of nonveterans) and higher median incomes compared with the general population.”

We need only look to the systemic problem of suicides and the proceedings that are underway for the alleged killer of sixteen Afghan civilians to know the issues of PTSD and TBI are having rippling effects in and out of the military.

Today, veterans’ issues are top of mind as we thank them for their service.  However, less than one week ago, CNN’s presidential election exit polls showed that only 5 percent of the electorate felt that foreign policy was the most important issue facing our country.  So what can you do to show your support going forward?  Two things to start:

  1. Mentor veterans to help them make their transition to civilian work;
  2. Encourage the hiring of veterans whenever possible.

These two initiatives are best conducted one-on-one with individual attention, and there are two great organizations right her in Denver to help.  The University of Colorado Denver has partnered with the Denver Chamber of Commerce to create a unique program to help veterans.  It’s called Boots to Suits, and the key components involved mentoring veteran students to help them with their transition to a civilian job.  In addition, the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) has as its mission to encourage “employment of Guardsmen and Reservists who bring integrity, global perspective and proven leadership to the civilian workforce.”

Kinds words of thanks are nice, but sacrificing your time to help a veteran will make a difference.

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