Champions of Change: Vietnam Veterans

Uploaded by whitehouse on 24.05.2012

Darien Paige: My name is Darien Paige and I'm the Director of Veterans Wounded
Warriors and Military Families Outreach.
And on behalf of the Administration,
I thank you so much for being here.
And I thank our Champions for being here today.
The Champions we recognize today recognized the importance of
service decades ago and they continue to do so in their
communities today.
As we recognize the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War
I'd be remiss if I didn't ask all of the Vietnam Veterans in
the room to stand and be acknowledged.
(standing ovation)
Thank you, so much, for your service.
And welcome home.
This Administration is committed to ensuring that veterans of all
eras receive the care, benefits and opportunities that they
deserve and that they've earned.
Part of that is the benefit of having an honorable burial.
The person that I'm about to introduce to you today makes
sure that that happens.
Under Secretary Steve Muro was sworn in as the Under Secretary
for Memorial Affairs in 2011, but his service started well
before that.
Between 1968 and 1972 he served two tours in Vietnam.
Recognizing the importance of federal service,
he joined the National Cemeteries Administration in
1978 and he continues to serve with us today.
Ladies and gentlemen, Under Secretary Steve Muro.
Steve Muro: Thank you, Paige.
Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, fellow veterans.
And welcome home, Vietnam Veterans.
It's a privilege to be here to welcome you to this ceremony.
When we look at the Vietnam Veterans and the Champions for
Change, many of you, many of the people in this country,
just ordinary Americans doing extraordinary things for our
veterans and for our nation and for those that never served in
the uniform.
So we want to thank you.
You all are out-innovating, you're out-educating and you're
outbuilding the rest of the world.
Throughout the years the White House,
this Champion for Change initiative,
is able to bring together a group of people,
those individuals that are leading the change
in this nation.
An outstanding group that is here today is remarkable
individuals that have done things for this
nation and continue.
They have served this country with dedication and courage and
then they came home and continue to serve.
Through their tireless efforts they have worked hard to bring
an end to veterans' homelessness and to boost veteran employment
and to help reduce those that are coping with PTSD.
Each and every one of you veterans and each and every one
of you individuals that are here today support this nation and to
strengthen who we are and who we stand for.
As we approach Memorial Day and 50 Year Anniversary of the
Vietnam War, it is our duty as an Administration to recognize
the veterans who served with honor.
It is our duty to ensure that they are shown the respect that
they earned and deserve.
We are grateful for their service and their sacrifice
and we are so proud of the great work they have continued to do
when they return home in their communities.
Please join me in thanking these Champions of Change.
I want to talk a little bit about my service and my time
with the VA.
First of all, I served in Vietnam aboard the USS BENJAMIN
STODDERT DDG 22, and then I served with a Naval construction
battalion at NSA Da Nang Naval Support Activities.
And then I was a lucky person, came home,
found a job in the VA, and who'd guess that 40 years later I'd
still be working for the VA.
When I first started as a mechanic,
I was turning wrenches and actually I thought I came to
work for the government because I could retire at 55.
And at that time I had no idea that I would be asked to be the
Under Secretary.
So I thank this Administration.
And I thank you the Secretary of Veterans Affairs for that honor
to serve in this position.
But one thing I did learn the first day on the job,
and actually my first job was with the medical centers,
and I learned right away that what I did and how I served
veterans was important.
It was important to the veterans and their families.
So in my mind my service to veterans on a day-in and day-out
basis, no matter what I did in the VA counted,
counted in many ways.
And that has carried on for me with the department I run now,
the National Cemetery Administration.
And I know that my employees get it.
And I'll tell you why I know they get it.
Last year for four consecutive years now in ten years the
National Cemetery Administration has received the highest honors
for customer service in the United States and any other
organization under the Respected American Customer Service Index.
Companies like Ford, FedEx and Coca-Cola have
not reached those numbers.
But we have an advantage over those companies.
And I'll tell you what the advantage is: Three quarter
of my employees of the 1700 employees that I
lead are veterans --
-- three quarters of them.
Eighty percent of my cemetery directors,
those individuals that run my cemeteries,
are also veterans, 80%.
Since 2009, we've reached out to those individuals that are
returning home from OIF, OEF, Afghanistan and Iraq,
and we've hired, we've employed over 300 individuals into
permanent positions, and we will continue.
Now think about that, we have 1700 employees and we filled 300
positions with those that are returning.
So we are veterans hiring veterans serving veterans.
So I want to make sure that we all remember, you know,
the nation is what it is because of the veterans
that serve this nation.
It's one of the President's priorities and Secretary
Shinseki's priorities to ensure our veterans receive the
benefits that they've earned.
And in the National Cemetery Administration,
we're making sure that happens.
We're in the largest expansion of national cemeteries since the
civil war.
We're in the process of opening 18 new sites in
the next five years.
That will provide, 95% of our veterans will have a burial
option within 75-miles of their home.
Just recently, back as recent as 2001,
only 70% of the veterans had that option.
With these new cemeteries that we're going to open we're going
to serve urban areas like New York,
and we're going to serve rural areas like Wyoming and Montana.
And we're also going to serve any of the veterans that we can
provide service to.
The other thing we do is we have the State Grants Program where
we fund the states to develop state-run cemeteries so they can
also support those veterans that live in their community.
So as veterans, as an Administration,
it is our responsibility to maintain that promise that
President Lincoln said to this nation on his second inaugural
address when he said to all the citizens to put our differences
aside and to care for them who shall have bourn the battle and
for their widow and their orphans.
I want to thank you for all the support you do for this nation.
I want to thank those veterans who served and then came back
and served twice and are now serving the nation.
I want to thank you all for being here.
It's a privilege to me to be here today to welcome you to
this program.
May God bless all of you here.
May God bless the men and women in uniform today.
And may God bless the United States of America.
Thank you, very much.
Darien Paige: Our first panel today focuses on veterans wellness.
It's going to be led by Rosie Cloud who is our Director of
Veterans Wounded Warriors and Military Family Policy.
Today we have Bob Curry, Gail Belmont, Jeff Hanson, Mr. Luna,
and Mr. Sherman.
Thank you.
Rosie Cloud: Hello, everyone. Welcome.
As Darien mentioned before the Champions of Change started a
little over a year ago and since then we've honored about 500
different citizens who are leading in the space all
across the nation.
It is no surprise that today, especially as we get closer to
Memorial Day and the 50th Anniversary of Vietnam,
that we have an opportunity to take care of our leaders.
And it's not surprising that the panel here with me today
as veterans has also continued their leadership in supporting
veterans much after their own formal service has ended.
So I want to take a moment quickly to introduce folks.
I'd like to start with Mr. Stephen Sherman.
And I will, I will -- I think I have permission to say your age,
he is 91 years old.
Thank you, sir.
And one of the few surviving African-American veterans of
World War II.
Mr. Sherman has established the Dorie Miller Memorial Foundation
which works to connect veterans with evidence-based health care,
telemedicine, family consultation employment.
So we welcome him here today.
I also have to my right Gail Belmont.
She's the Founder and Executive Director of Quilts
of Honor America.
And she personally has spent her time on active duty and has
played Taps at memorial services throughout her lifetime and
continues to do that to this day.
In her role with Quilts of Honor America,
she has awarded over 700 quilts to veterans directly.
So thank you and welcome.
I am also joined by Samuel Luna, a Vietnam veteran and Founder of
Vets Journey Home Texas.
He is also a Chapter Service Officer for four veterans'
service organizations.
And he helps veterans navigate the Veterans Administration to
obtain medical care and compensation.
In addition to that he serves on the order,
Military Order of the Purple Heart and the Board of Spaulding
for Children, which is a special needs adoption agency.
Thank so much for being here today.
I am also joined to my left today by Jeff Hanson,
President of Palmetto State Base Camp.
This provides transitional residential housing for
homeless veterans.
As a cofounder he continues voluntary leadership and
advocates on behalf of homelessness.
And he personally has served in the Army -- I'm sorry -- the
United States Marine Corps -- you're going to get me for that
one, aren't you?
-- in the United States Marine Corps as a retired Master
Sergeant from the South Carolina Air National Guard with just
under 22 years of service.
Thank you, so much.
And finally I have Bob Curry who is President and Founder
And this is an organization that provides peer-to-peer counseling
and reintegration navigation services for veterans.
And with that I want to tell you their motto because it really
struck a cord with me.
Their motto is "helping veterans and their families who survived
war survive peace."
So thank you, so much, Bob, for being here today.
So we would like to start the panel today and actually build
on the motto that I just shared with you.
And really ask Bob to talk to us a little bit about how you are
currently helping soldiers survive the peace and what you
have found especially with your peer-to-peer counseling
services, how that, how you're making that happen.
Robert Curry: Thank you.
Hooch, if you haven't lived in a hooch,
a hooch is a place you live in in combat.
And dryhooch means no drugs or no alcohol.
So, you know, taking, stealing the VA's motto of "never again
shall one generation abandon another,"
it was Vietnam vets who got together and saw these new
conflicts and went this can't happen again.
And if you look in history, just look at the Vietnam generation.
Close to 60,000 died in combat, but within ten years 150,000
had committed suicide.
You know, we're on track for that today just at a smaller
set of numbers.
Over a half a million ended up in our prison systems and
destroyed families.
It's a common joke among Vietnam vets of how many times have you
been married.
How many relationships.
So it was only, it was only in my own PTSD and dealing with my
addiction that Vietnam vets came forward and helped me
and made a difference.
And the families who suffer alone.
You know, the wive who I have to thank hung by me and some
children, even though she shouldn't have,
but we formed dryhooch to help veterans who survived the war.
You know, you look at this generation,
they're on track that more will die from the hands of
suicide and PTSD.
So we have, we arranged it around a coffee shop where
people can come in and in a nonalcoholic environment just
invite them in.
We invite the community in so they can experience veterans,
thank them, et cetera, learn from each other that if somebody
says get out of here, go get some help,
the person may not go to the VA because he or she may determine
they don't have a problem.
When I was young I didn't have a lot of problems.
So here is a place where you can come into a coffee shop and talk
to other vets who have been there and then leave.
But then maybe come back and take a group that's led by
other veterans on PTSD.
We have groups for family survivors of suicide.
This is the most lost group.
Here a veteran comes back and for all the wrong reasons he
or she commits suicide and the family is totally lost.
So we get them together to bond as a group so they can share
stories on their recovery.
So a part of it is to bring them in and have a little fun,
have some coffee, have some music.
Put on art shows.
But also to be able to provide them with peers.
And we partner with every organization we can.
You know, you surround yourself with people smarter than you.
So we go to other organizations like mental health America
Easter Seals, I never knew that they had a problem.
In Milwaukee there is a group called CVI run by General
Kolkraft who does vets housing.
We don't do vets housing.
But now we know where to get the vet there.
Because of them we partnered with the Department of Health
and SAMSA to put together a peer program for people dealing with
mental disorders.
We have opened up now three locations.
We're working with the City of Chicago on bringing one to that
great city.
But the idea is what we all want to do and why most of you are
here is that as family members and veterans and as people who
didn't serve, when we were putting the building up we had
people, drywallers come in and go,
I didn't serve but I want to help.
And to a Vietnam vet I am still a little suspicious of that,
you know?
I'm waitin' for the other boot to fall.
But it's been overwhelming.
And so the idea is how can we help this younger generation
come back.
But not forgetting the Vietnam veteran because that's our most
attended group.
We have vets over 60.
In fact, the other day one of the new guys walked in with a
police officer and I think everybody went, uh-oh,
and the police officer who is a neighbor wanted to thank the
group because this neighbor, a Vietnam vet,
was finally not angry any more and he was opening up his life.
So we try to make differences in all the worlds.
But that's why we're all here.
We all do a piece of it and we try to find other smart,
caring people and partner up with them.
And just in dealing with what we talked about for people going
away to jail, Americorps partnered with us and now we
have legal peers, veterans who work within the justice system,
the district attorney in Milwaukee is an Army veteran and
we are looking at putting in a vets court there where we can
get them to the VA.
So, you know, as most of us vets we have a love/hate relationship
with the VA and that depends what day of the week it is,
but we partner with them because we don't do any clinical stuff.
We do peer to peer.
So the idea is when they do need those types of services we hand
them off to the doctors and nurses who are the very caring
part of the VA that we know.
Thank you.
Rosie Cloud: Thank you so much, Bob.
And if you have not seen his website, I definitely encourage you all to
take a look.
You talked a little bit about homelessness and partnering
with other organizations.
I would like to turn it over to Jeff.
If you can talk a little bit about your work with
homelessness and communities and how NGOs are really a critical
part of working with this issue.
Jeff Hanson: Absolutely.
Palmetto State Base Camp was founded in 1992 as a small
nonprofit co-founded by two Vietnam veterans and two Desert
Shield/Desert Storm veterans.
Sadly our Vietnam veteran brothers are not with us today.
But they played a huge part in getting our organization
off the ground.
We quickly learned as a small nonprofit that we needed help.
We needed experience in residential housing which
is our goal.
We provide transitional housing to homeless veterans.
We have an 18-bed program in Columbia, South Carolina,
along with seven single-family Choto Homes and we have also
opened up a program in Greenville, South Carolina,
with another 40 spaces.
And so we have worked very closely with the VA.
Our original grant came from the VA's Homeless Veterans Grant and
Per Diem Program which many of you are probably familiar with.
And our success really came in partnering with other nonprofits
within our community and identifying services that we
knew existed and bringing them to the table and then trying to
fill gaps if there was something that we needed or we didn't have
available that we would try to either search a grant or another
opportunity that would allow us to move forward.
The Alston Wilkes Society was that partnering and experienced
nonprofit that had the residential experience to
provide transitional housing.
And we have had a relationship with them for going
on 20 years now.
And our program is up.
We have taken care of and have had many, many success stories.
We don't win, we don't win all of them,
but we work very hard at trying to give each vet an opportunity
to stand up, put their lives back together,
put their families back together, and march on.
Rosie Cloud: Thank you. Thank you, Jeff.
So Bob talked to us a little bit about providing direct services,
navigation services to veterans.
The critical role Jeff has talked about with regards
to supporting homelessness and making sure that
intervention happens.
I'd like to ask Sam to talk about how your role with
retreats and connecting, that initial connection to veterans
and helping them connect back into home,
how your work with that ties into this.
Sam Luna: Well, thank you, very much.
It is quite an honor being here.
And I am just sitting here thinking about the 50th
Anniversary of Vietnam.
And what I have shared this morning with some of the guys
here, women, I have heard a couple of them
talk about coming home.
I came home and, you know, I was on top of the world...
I thought.
Great career, great family.
My lovely wife Gloria is here with me.
We have been married for 42 years.
And that's, like I said, is very unusual because I belong to
groups where, yeah, how many times have you been married.
I have been in groups where a guy has been married ten times.
But anyway, the point of the anniversary is that,
as somebody mentioned this morning,
is that Vietnam guys are retiring right now.
And I hadn't thought about that because I retired,
I was very fortunate to come back,
and I got a job as a federal agent,
and so I had the luxury of retiring at 57.
And when I retired at 57, my life sort of started
coming apart.
Because I had no career, the psychiatrist said you had this
black box on your mantle and you have been walking around it
building a career, doing community activities,
raising money for everybody else and now you're sitting
here looking at the box and we've got to look at it.
And so it has been an incredible journey.
And I'm thinking this morning about the 50th Anniversary that
so many Vietnam guys are retiring.
We had our last program, in March was my last program.
We have one in June and one in July.
And it was an incredible program like every one we do,
but it was ten, we take a maximum of ten people and so
it was our kids, our retreat.
We had ten kids.
Recent Iraqi guys, Afghanistan, three ladies.
One had just gotten out of the Navy three months prior.
So it was an incredible experience to see them unload
and not have to carry what we -- what I carried for 40 years.
And so it was an incredible experience but then it hit me
that it was the first program I have done in six years that
didn't have any Vietnam guys.
I was there by myself.
So that was the sad part of it.
But our program is a safe place.
We create a safe place on Friday night that we bring 20
volunteers together.
We take a maximum of ten veterans and, of course,
I am looking for the combat guys.
We're looking for the combat guys that really
are carrying a lot.
But we never turn down anybody.
And just last night I heard from,
I got an e-mail from one of the guys that came through our
program about three years ago.
Heard about the award, and he was calling me, e-mailing me,
and I didn't know who he was.
And so he said I'm the guy that went through the program and you
and your wife convinced me that being a mail guy in Vietnam was,
you know, you guys' most important job because I helped
you guys stay in communication while you were over there.
And so he unloaded quite a bit.
And so seeing it all last night really got to me.
I remember him.
I will never forget that story and I have shared it at a lot of
our programs because we never turn down anybody.
So our program on Friday night we build a safe place and on
Saturday the staff, very briefly, we tell our story.
You know, no more than three minutes.
And sometimes we get to the Saturday morning to
the volunteer portion to share their story,
but we see the ten participants are bursting.
You know, they're -- we sometimes see that they're
ready and so we just even cut our stories way down and let
them start talking.
And in the process of sharing their story,
there is no time limit.
We have ten people.
We start Saturday about noon usually.
Just before noon.
There is no time limit.
We have two trained facilitators.
Nobody talks to this one person telling their story.
The facilitators help them, you know,
at some point in the story it's going to get very difficult.
And so as the story gets difficult the facilitators help
them, guide them to whatever needs to happen.
And through process work, psychodrama,
psychodrama we create the story.
Usually it's some story, a buddy, something happened.
And so we recreate through psychodrama an opportunity
for this veteran to talk to this person.
To say whatever they need to say and let this person go or
this group go.
Sometimes it's a lot of people.
My best friend in Houston he was the only one that survived in a
DMZ, two guys survived in his platoon and so he had
a lot of stuff.
So, anyway, they take as long as they want and in
the process unload.
General Chiarelli, I met last year now retired,
has an incredible knowledge of post traumatic stress.
He talks about getting it out.
And so that's what we're doing now.
We're telling the veterans this is an opportunity to get it out.
The Vietnam guys out there, young guys, people in here,
don't even realize that they have something to get out.
And that's our challenge, you know.
If we can get people there, get it out,
it makes all the difference in the world, you know.
And the married guys, you know, one of the big lines is I have
to go home and apologize to my wive.
You know, I have to go home and, you know, love my kids,
love my wive or, you know, whatever,
but it's an opportunity to find peace.
And most of the time it's a peace that they weren't even
aware of.
You know, we've got guys out there that, hey, I'm fine,
I'm fine.
I was -- so incredible.
I am so blessed in my life.
My career. My family.
But, yeah, I was carrying a lot.
So when I went to Vets Journey Home,
the first one I went through in Maryland, excuse me,
was an incredible experience.
I came face-to-face with my Vietnam experience.
I unloaded stuff I had no idea that had happened to me.
And, of course, so much stuff that I had never thought about.
But the big one was that I didn't have a youth.
I lost my youth at 19 and everything changed.
But, thank God, I'm here.
I am so blessed to have gone through this and now in a
position to share it and find people like you guys to come and
help me to help the guys.
Just being there and knowing that what we've been through
is similar to what they've been through,
it makes all the difference in the world.
Sometimes we don't have to say something.
And I always -- they're always afraid they're going to have to
say something they don't want to or whatever.
I say, look, your can come, you don't have to speak all weekend
because your story will come out from somebody else.
Not just one time.
It will come out a lot of times.
And something will come out that's been affecting your life,
that's been, you know, a weight on your soldiers.
So our program is very intense.
We have a lot of difficulty, I know,
raising money because we can't get to the numbers.
It's only 10 people at a time, 20 volunteers.
But yeah, the word is getting out.
It's something that the VA doesn't do.
We have a lot of people that come, a lot of medication.
And when we see this -- we have several doctors that have been
through our program.
We use them to look at the medication and see if this
medication is going to affect them, you know,
into an emotional state that we're going to put them into.
So some of the doctors at the VA, a lot of doctors,
the psychotherapist will help us and say, look,
you need to go to another program, go into therapy,
stay with it, and come back and see us.
You know, we're going to support you,
we're going to be in touch with you at the VA,
wherever you want to get a little bit of help.
Right now, we think you need to do something before
you come to us.
And that's very rare because we'll work with everybody.
And the people that are helping us are incredible.
They've been doing it for a long time.
It's not therapy.
It's just education.
You know, we have to say we're not therapists.
We've just been there.
And through our stories, we help people get it out and go home
and be able to sit and be at peace, you know.
To be at peace you never knew you needed.
But it's an incredible thing to unload something that's been
with us and we didn't even know it.
So it's an honor.
It's an incredible honor, you know,
sitting here thinking about my Vietnam brothers because there's
a lot of them that -- I'm not going back and starting anew and
going after them because I need to get -- even though we have a
lot of young people.
We have a couple's program in July.
And before we left, it's already full, you know.
And what the couples came from, we don't know.
They're all over the country.
Found out there's a chaplain at Fort Bliss who one of our
volunteers works with.
They've been pushing our program.
So we've got two couples.
And one of them -- you know, both of them are veterans.
But thank God our program is working.
The word is getting out.
And hopefully we're going to -- we're looking at ways to maybe
cut down a little bit to -- excuse me,
include more veterans, make it more than ten, you know.
Because we've done it with 11.
But Saturday morning, we'll go to 2,
3:00 in the morning on Sunday, whatever it takes, you know,
to get to all of them and all of them to say what they
need to say.
So thank you.
Rosye Cloud: Thank you, Sam.
Samuel Luna: And appreciate it.
Rosye Cloud: Thank you for sharing that, Sam.
Thank you so much.
With that, I would like to turn it over to Mr. Sherman to talk
a little bit about his great work with the Dorie
Miller Foundation.
Stephen Sherman: Yes. I would like to say a little bit about Dorie
Miller first.
Dorie Miller was a Pearl Harbor hero.
He was fighting the Japanese by himself for like 30 minutes.
When everybody else was running for their lives and trying to
take cover, Dorie Miller come up out of the hole and seen death
and destruction all around him.
And he didn't run for cover.
He looked up in the bridge and seen that his captain
had been wounded.
And he went up -- and he was 6 foot 2, probably
190, 200 pounds.
And he brought his captain down and put him behind the
cooling tower.
Then he seen an unmanned machine gun, anti-aircraft machine gun.
And he took that machine gun and told me personally he shot down
four planes and probably five.
They awarded 15 men the medal of honor during Pearl Harbor --
well 16 men, 15 white men and one black man.
They all got the medal of honor.
But Dorie Miller, on the count of the color of his skin,
got the Navy Cross, which is a high honor for a black man
in the 40's.
But Admiral Nimitz -- they both came from Texas.
Admiral Nimitz and Dorie Miller came from Waco, Texas.
He wanted to give Dorie Miller the medal of honor,
but all the admirals and generals said they wouldn't
salute a black man.
And so they had to give him the Navy Cross,
which is a high honor.
Anyway, Dorie Miller told me several times when I would
see him -- he was stationed at the naval base there in
San Francisco.
And I was stationed at Pittsburgh, California.
And he would tell me about what he did in Pearl Harbor.
And that's how I became to know Dorie Miller.
And I've been trying for like 50 years and 12 Presidents to give
Dorie Miller the medal of honor.
But I wanted to keep his name alive.
And the older I got and the more I tried,
it seemed like he would never get the medal of honor.
But I have a letter now that I think I'm going to present
to the White House.
We might get him the Medal of Honor finally.
But I could never forget Dorie.
But I wanted to keep his name alive,
so I started this non-profit organization
to help homeless veterans.
And I named it after Dorie Miller, if you want to look it up on your computer.
You can read all about me and Dorie Miller.
And I really started this -- I was in Denver,
my hometown visiting my family.
And I seen this Vietnam vet.
He had sores all on his arms and legs,
and he was out with a sign talking about, Help me,
I'm a Vietnam vet.
And I told my brother, I said, stop, I got to see this man.
And I went back and I asked him who he was.
And he told me who he was and that he had been a captain in
the Marine Corps in Vietnam.
And that touched my heart.
And I took him, I put him in the car and I took him out to the VA
and I told them all about what he had told me.
And I told them, I say I live in Los Angeles but I'm going to
check to see how this marine gets.
He told me that he had a wife and twin daughters
and they had separated.
And that's it.
He had just lost his way.
And they kept in touch with me and they finally gave him
100% disability.
He quit his drug and alcoholism, went back to his wife and their
twin daughters, and they're back together now with a home
and everything.
So that gave me -- that was one of my success stories.
But I have many of them.
There was a lady there.
She had been deployed to Iraq twice.
And I met her over there on a street and I asked her,
I said -- she had a sign.
And I said, are you a Vietnam vet -- Iraqi vet?
And she yeah, I've been deployed twice.
She said me and my mother, she came to take care of me
here and we got stranded here in Los Angeles and I can't get
anything done.
So I told her, you meet me tomorrow morning.
I took her over to the VA, and I got her 100% disability from the
time she put in her claim.
And she got her a check.
And she called me from Cheyenne, Wyoming and said, Commander,
I meant to call you before I left,
but I got my check and me and my mother is going home
to North Carolina.
And I meant to give you some money before I left.
I said, don't you dare try to give me any money.
You just go to North Carolina and you and your mother call
me when you get home.
And she did.
So that's what I do.
I'm devoting the Dorie Miller Memorial Foundation to helping
homeless veterans.
So this doctor, he had seen me on television
there in Los Angeles.
His name is Dr. Arnold Bresky.
He called me and said he would like to come by my house.
And he came by my house and he said that he's
getting ready to retire.
And he wanted to help veterans.
He was a veteran himself.
And he said, you know, most of these veterans that come
back have PTSD and TBI.
So we're opening up a clinic, a memory clinic out there.
We've got a pilot program going in Los Angeles.
And we want to take it to every city in the United States.
So that's why, really why I'm here today.
And I want to work on this pilot program that we got
for Dr. Bresky and I to open up this clinic.
And not only homeless veterans but disabled veterans and
veterans with memory problems, things like that.
I know Dr. Bresky is for real because he rewired my brain.
He would come to my house -- he didn't have to.
He's got two clinics, one up in Hollywood and
the other one up somewhere.
But he came every Thursday to my house for two hours and gave me
-- and he said I had problems.
I really had problems.
I had problems.
And from World War II on down -- I came home on the
hospital ship.
And they told me when I got my discharge,
said if you ever get depressed or anything,
take a couple aspirins, you'll be all right.
I had PTSD.
After we got done in Europe, they redlined all the engineers.
We had to go down through the Panama Canal.
And I ended up next to the Kadena Airfield in Okinawa.
Anybody ever been to Okinawa?
You know what I'm talking about.
That's where we were stationed.
And our last tour of duty, after the war was over,
was to clear out those caves in Okinawa.
And every one of my men had PTSD because we weren't used to that
kind of warfare.
You know, at least the Germans would give up,
thousands of them would give up.
In Japan, Okinawa, you had to kill them to the last man.
And we Americans are not used to that.
And even after we would burn them up,
literally burn them up in those caves,
then we would take a bulldozer and shove them shut,
and knowing there's human beings in there that's going
to suffocate and die.
And that bothered all of us.
But anyway, we survived.
And I'm still here at 91 to tell you about it.
But anyway, I have the Dorie Miller Memorial Foundation.
And if you would like to get in touch with me -- expect for
my business cards.
I left them at the hotel.
It's a good place for them.
But anyway, the
You can see it.
And if I get my cards here in time,
I'll pass you all out a card.
But if you want to send donations or volunteer for
the Doris Miller Memorial Foundation,
it's Post Office Box 17494, Encino, California, 91416.
My 501(c)(3) is pending, so you can't take it off yet.
But if you want to give me less than a million dollars,
I'll take it.
Thank you very much.
God bless you.
God bless America.
Rosye Cloud: So our last champion is Gail.
And would you tell us a little bit about your work with Quilts
in America and how you've gone about honoring our traditions.
Gail Belmont: Well, Quilts of Honor America was started
because, in the civil war, women made quilts for their soldiers.
They went off and they were buried in those quilts when
they passed on.
So after 9-11 and all this that has happened since Vietnam,
I wanted to give back because I played "Taps" during Vietnam.
And I saw a lot of men killed in action.
And I said I didn't want that to happen.
So by giving a quilt that is American tradition,
I'm giving back.
And I'm also giving something that heals them.
We make it for post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury,
Agent Orange, multiple tours of any war, all combat related.
You can request a quilt on
We need money because this is a costly expense.
It's an honor to do this.
Everybody's a volunteer.
Women across -- most Northern California and Wisconsin.
We have a group.
They make the quilts.
And how do they affect the families and the ones that
receive it?
A thank you letter came last week that said,
a long overdue thank you, you gave my son a quilt a couple of
years ago and I should have done this thank you sooner but
I wanted to let you know that that was his pride, that quilt.
He carries it and keeps it, brings it home every time he
comes home.
He's off to Afghanistan again.
So now the quilt is in his room.
So what I do is I go in the room and I touch it whenever I want
to be close to him.
And what does a Vietnam vet get when he gets a quilt?
He gets a Welcome home, thank you because Vietnam vets did
not get that.
Stephen Sherman: That's right.
Gail Belmont: And this quilt gives that to them.
Also, World War II Vets, you give the quilt,
it's a thank you that they never got.
Stephen Sherman: I got one!
Gail Belmont: See. And you're happy too, huh.
See! These quilts -- well, they help heal.
And that's the important thing about it.
But, please hit the website.
We want to continue to do this.
This is my passion and my mission.
Thank you.
And thank you for letting me be honored today.
Rosye Cloud: Let's thank all of our champions.
Darian Page: Thank you all for sharing.
We'll now move to our second panel which is focusing on
veterans employment.
It's going to be lead by Dennis O'Neil who runs our Performance
Improvement Council here in the Office of Management and Budget.
Dennis is going to be joined by Cassaundra St. John,
John Reynolds, Hernán Luis y Prado, Richard Kornegay,
and T.J. Breeden.
Dennis O'Neil: Thanks, Darian.
There's some amazing people that are sitting on my left
and right.
And I'm very blessed.
But that's a hard act to follow.
That's an incredible panel.
And a couple of people that may not get a lot of recognition,
but Rosye Cloud, you moderated the last panel, and Darian Page,
and all the people that work here in the White House Task
Force for Veterans, Military Families and Wounded Warriors.
So if we could, could we give them a quick hand.
I would appreciate it.
As Darian said, I'm Dennis O'Neil,
and I'm very honored to be part of this team.
And I do really mean that.
And we're joined here by John Reynolds who has the non-profit
Veterans to Work, really a business focused approach to
helping insure that Veterans' employment is a major issue that
we tackle.
If you don't know, there's about 176,000
commitments that have been given to the joining forces
program under the First Lady's office to help with
veteran's employment.
But we have about 300,000 veterans,
somewhere between 286 and 307 that will be between now and
2017 as we draw down.
So the economic environment that we face will continue
to be a challenge.
It's organizations like this, like Veterans to Work and John
that we're very, very appreciative of.
I'm also joined by Hernán Prado, the founder of the Workshops for
Warriors, again, looking at skills,
tangible skills and helping people transition into effective
employment for meaningful jobs.
And really about empowering the individuals on how they can go
about it.
He's an Iraq and Afghanistan veteran like myself.
And I'm very pleased to see some of the tangible results that he
and his organization are doing.
I also have Richard Kornegay who serves as the commander
and regional director for the National Association
of Black Veterans.
And I'm also looking forward to hearing about some of his
work with the VA to really end veteran homelessness.
And he spent over 20 years in the military himself.
He understands.
And I'm hoping he'll talk to us a little bit today about some of
the challenges he faced in his transition and how he relates
those skills back to his work today.
I also have T.J. over here.
Fascinated to get to talk to T.J. a
little bit before this.
He has Emerging Enterprises which,
I think if I had to caveat it, it's kind of the high-tech and
high-touch approach to relate to the current
generation of veterans.
And that is, how do we have the technical solutions and
then connect the dots to the right people.
So I look forward to hearing about some of
the stuff he's doing.
And I know he's get some work at Fort Bragg coming up.
And then I have Cassaundra St. John, thank you so much,
who is a military brat herself.
And as a father of four military brats,
I know the challenges that they face.
But also, her work is really about military families and
specifically to reach out to the women in our community; spouses,
daughters, and to make sure that they are connected in
the right way.
She also has, with her F7 group, a neat program that I hadn't
heard of before.
And it's the VETPRO.
So not only does she take a proactive approach to the
women in our community, she also goes about teaching potential
employers about job opportunities and how
they can reach out to this unique community.
As I talk to the White House Business Council once or twice a
week, which represents cities from all over the country,
the number one question I get is, I want to hire,
I just don't know how to connect.
So it's great organizations like the F7 group that allow
us to do that.
So if I could, I think I would like to start with John.
And really kind of interested in some of the challenges.
I didn't mention before, John also was a calvary
man in Vietnam.
And as a calvary man myself -- he was on the infantry side,
I was on the Army side but it's all cal so it's good.
But I would like to talk to you a little bit and see some of the
unique challenges that you faced at that time and how you've
learned from those experiences and how you integrate that into
your performance today.
John Reynolds: Great. Thanks.
I -- first of all, thank you for this honor.
It's great to be here.
You know, I was -- I think what allows me to be effective
in what I do is the fact that, you know,
I'm a business guy but I'm also a veteran.
And I know what businesses are missing by not hiring veterans
in larger numbers.
They're really leaving a lot on the table.
And so you know, I'm kind of in a position to know.
I've got inside information here.
And I would like to make that more available to the businesses
that would hire veterans.
I think what I learned in Vietnam -- you know,
I grew up fast.
I learned how to work with a team.
I learned how to put, you know, honor above my life,
kind of really felt that way.
And I like to think that my fellows felt that way about me.
It was really an important lesson.
And I brought that to many aspects of what -- you know,
my business career.
Now, four years ago, basically what lead me to found veterans
to work, again, was this realization.
Way too many business articles about veterans being stranded.
I think the figure floated now is 29% unemployment among the
younger veterans.
And if you're in the combat arms, like you and I were,
it's almost double that.
So the younger kids at the pointy end of the sphere are --
you know, the ones who do the fighting are the ones who are
suffering the greatest unemployment.
So it was those folks that I resolved to try to help.
But because I'm a business guy, I approached it by saying look,
how can we solve business's problems and make these veterans
part of that solution?
Involve them in the solution?
I don't want to be negative about how our government
approaches it, but I would characterize it as a supply
driven approach to the problem, meaning that we arm our
returning veterans with information and tools and
just say, okay, go get a job.
I think it's a lot more effective,
given our market based economy, to work within the market and
to go inside a company and say hey, guess what,
you've got an enormous resource here,
let us help you tap that resource,
make it easy and compelling to do that,
and you will get an amazing work -- you know,
you can tap into a great labor pool.
You know, it's really a simple matter of companies don't really
understand how to tap into that, how veterans can contribute,
particularly the younger ones, with, you know,
from the combat arms.
Don't worry about the officers and the Senior NCOs.
They tend to do okay, relatively.
But I go inside a company and I say, hey look,
let's work together, let's give him just, you know,
sufficient training so that they can be productive and they'll
stick around a long time.
So we have some tools that are optimized for that kind
of collaboration.
Our tag line is helping businesses and veterans
succeed together.
And you know, we're really very much dedicated to that.
So today we have -- we help companies directly hire veterans
using tools like aptitude assessments and various other
tools to make it easy.
We provide temporary staffing.
We operate with an operations partner.
We operate a virtual service center staffed -- we have 2400
veterans in our program now available to deliver service
from their homes.
So 38% of those are disabled and find it difficult to leave
their homes.
So there are jobs for them as well.
So three ways of accessing veteran productivity: Direct
employment, contract staffing, and outsourced services.
And we certainly hope, again, that we can find a way to work
with the government.
I think there's tremendous energies there in working
with our public agencies.
And we're hoping we can maybe stir some interest in that.
Thank you very much.
Dennis O'Neil: Thank you, Mr. Reynolds.
A great segue as we really look at a couple different things.
One is how do we connect with businesses?
But the other one is, how do we tell the stories of the talents
of the this pool, of veterans of all eras,
and the unique skill sets they bring in with the leadership,
the ability to overcome adversity,
understanding what the requirements are to accomplish
a mission and the skill sets that employers are looking for
but helping them translate it into a language that
they can understand.
A different approach I think we'll hear from Mr. Prado is a
little bit more on tackling really two problems.
One is the skill sets of veterans.
But also, the other is the quality of the workforce in
manufacturing and how do we link up the major needs of
manufacturing industries with some of the potential skill
sets that we can tie together.
So I look forward to hearing some of the work that you're
doing on trying to tackle some major problems for individuals
but also some of the issues that our nation faces.
Hernán Luis y Prado: Well, Mr. O'Neil, I appreciate it.
Being from the Army, I understand you're saying Prado.
It's actually Luis y Prado.
But for the marines out here and the Navy, we understand it.
Most importantly, I want to thank the President of
the United States for having us here.
I believe that something important is happening in
the November timeframe.
And despite that, he decided to take time
and to focus on us, veterans.
And as everyone knows, vets are vets are vets.
We're a proven quantity.
It's a known workforce.
And we're happy to get America back to work one vet at a time.
I want to thank the undersecretary.
I want to thank Ms. Cloud, my fellow champions of change and
honored guests.
Thank you very much for having us here.
We couldn't be here without you.
I also would like to thank my wife Rachel and my daughters.
Again, this is a joint effort.
And the only reason I'm saying I is because I would like to thank
these people.
If not, there's no reason for me to be here at all.
One of the things that we have been able to do is help -- in
San Diego particularly, we have a 30% unemployment rate between
veterans 19-26.
And again in combat vets, it's even higher.
And I think the typical vote among combat vets is,
how many vets does it take to change a light bulb.
And you tell the closest civilian, you wouldn't know,
you weren't there, right?
So, you know, we have to get past that.
I think everyone here is exactly on track.
We're all headed in the same direction.
And, that is, vets tend to function better with other vets.
In the Navy we call it intrusive leadership,
meaning you can get someone and kind of shake them by the scruff
in a nice positive way.
And again, from a civilian, if you look at it,
a vet kind of gripping another vet.
You look at that and you think it's very aggressive.
But it's a form of love.
They we respond to that.
And it's a leadership style that we resonate with.
And one of the things that we found out is that right now
there are fierce unemployment battles.
And veterans and their families have been used to a certain
level of income.
And you can't transition these vets into an $8.00 an hour job
because it just won't translate.
You'll have a quick spiral from what they used to make
to what they're able to make.
And like Mr. O'Neill said, there has to be some type
of national database.
And we're working with to make sure
that we're able to incorporate those military skill sets into
a civilian translation.
We're also working with Joe Kitterman of 180 Skills to
make sure that we have a computer-based training
module that allows you to get these vocational skill sets,
because we've all taken the ASVAB, right?
The Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery.
And like Mr. Reynolds said, most officer, senior NCOs,
they have it figured out.
It's the younger generation, we call it Vet 2.0,
that they get out, they're fresh-faced, eager to learn,
they're ambitious.
They just don't know what to do.
And if you get -- if you're able to train them and if we have a
homogenized training plan, which we do,
if we're able to certify them, which we do,
and you're able to place them, and we've placed every single
veteran that has graduated from our program.
And we have companies like Goodrich Aerostructures that
recognize the value of a training pipeline in San Diego.
They recognize the value of veterans as
proven performers, right.
We know how to show up on time.
We know how to work.
We know how to communicate.
And we're a proven entity.
So if you're a business that needs employees,
and you're used to seeing veterans that come in and say,
I can lead, I'm a manager.
That's great.
You have plenty of managers.
You have plenty of directors.
You need someone that can do the work.
What we're doing is we certify vets to weld,
to machine, to fabricate.
And thanks to people like Goodrich Aerostructure,
for example, we've been able to get a computer lab.
Thanks to people like CNC Software,
we have access to Mastercam, which is the world's leading
computer-aided manufacturing software.
So we're able to train techs in high-tech skill sets,
that they can then export.
They're portable.
They go to Newport, Rhode Island, they have a job.
They go to Coggon, Iowa, to Betenbender
Manufacturing, right.
And they have a job.
Because no matter where you are in the U.S., I guarantee you
that there's a factory or shop down the street that needs
metalworkers, machinists, computer-aided designers,
millwrights, I guarantee you.
Steel is big, heavy, hard to transport.
And we're doing a lot of insourcing.
A lot of things that we used to send overseas,
we bring back in town and we're redoing them right
here in the United States.
Vets can do that.
Vets have done that.
And we're able to get both of the President's priorities,
which is reduce unemployment, increase the amount of veterans
that actually have a career, not a job, but a career,
and we're increasing America's manufacturing infrastructure.
That's the key thing for us.
And we look forward to partnering with whoever
would like to partner with us.
Again, as we all say, right, one team, one fight.
And we're looking forward.
Our mission is to get every veteran placed and make America
again the world's number one manufacturing and
economic superpower.
I think everybody here can agree to that.
Thank you very much for your time.
Dennis O'Neill: Thank you very much.
Very, very fascinating, and very meaningful.
And I think he really hit on the head -- the nail on the head in
how do we make sure that we have not just jobs,
but meaningful employment, and how do we connect people with
the right services that they need?
I think another gentleman, one of our Champions of Change who
has gone a long way in doing that, is Mr. Richard Kornegay.
He kind of has a different approach, but one,
with his work with the National Association for Black Veterans,
is one of our veteran service recognized organizations that
works with the VA to connect individuals with the benefits
that they have earned.
And he also has done a lot of work with the
VFW on homelessness.
So I would ask you, Mr. Kornegay,
can you talk to us a little bit about some of your experiences
after 20 years in the service, and how you've used some of
those skill sets that you've learned to help in these major
issues that you're trying to tackle?
Richard Kornegay: First off, I would like to say, it's a good day in America.
It's a good day in America, folks.
For somebody that look like me to be sitting here in the
Eisenhower Executive Center, it's a good day in America.
It's good to be here.
I would be glad to, sir.
I -- first off, how many of you have heard of the National
Association of Black Veterans?
Thank you very much.
I don't have a whole lot to say, because Bob Curry done stole my
spiel and he told everything I need to tell.
You know, he live in Milwaukee, so he has an advantage over me
because he's there where our home office is.
Thank you a lot, Bob.
But anyway, just for those of you that have not heard about
our organization, we are a veteran service organization,
a membership organization, that was formed initially back in
1969 as the Interested Veterans for Center City, Milwaukee,
by a Korean War veteran by the name of Thomas Wynn.
Thomas and seven other Vietnam veterans started
this organization because of the fact,
he saw Vietnam veterans coming back,
sitting outside the VA hospital, and why they were sitting there
-- he asked, why are you sitting here?
And they told him they couldn't get help.
So he wanted to know why.
And the reason they couldn't get help is because of the
discharges that they got when they came back from Vietnam.
So what Mr. Wynn did was he started Interested Veterans for
Center City of Milwaukee Program, a 51C,
C3 tax exempt status program, to upgrade,
to do an upgrade discharge for these veterans.
And so he did that.
In 1973, they reorganized and started NAVVets,
a membership organization whereas they're not only
going to get a discharge upgrade for the veterans,
but at the same time help those veterans to receive -- to get
their benefits through VA.
And so from that time, from 1973,
it took until the 2nd of April 1998 for NAVVets to become a
recognized veteran service organization by Congress and
the Department of Veteran Affairs.
Now, currently today, we're in every state,
the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Guam.
And we have nine regions.
I'm -- right now, I am the director for region 8.
Now, one of the things that I believe in is this.
Number one, I don't believe that a veteran should be homeless.
And that's just -- I'm like Thomas Wynn with that.
I just can't see a person giving their life for this country and
then end up homeless on the street and no one is doing
anything about it, especially if the veteran don't want to
be out there.
I believe that any veteran should have some means of
finding some way of getting in a house,
getting some place that they could get employed so that they
can provide for their family.
You know, being stationed around Fort Bragg for as many years as
I was, and now living in that city and seeing veterans under
the bridge is something that just irks me.
I'm disgruntled by it every day.
And so I set my goal to basically help as many veterans
as I can get off the street.
At the same time, help veterans with their claims,
negotiate that VA system that they have got -- that they are
disgruntled with, whereas that they can get the income that
they need whereas they can get off the street.
And so that's what we do in the National Association of
Black Veterans.
Now, through our partnership and me being the homeless veteran
coordinator for VA -- I mean for the VFW,
where I'm also a life member of the VFW,
I'm a life member of the DAV.
But with the VFW, as their veteran service coordinator
in our district, what I'm partnership with them is that
we get a team together and we go underneath the bridges and
find out who is homeless and why are they there.
And if that veteran need counseling,
whatever that veteran need.
Some veterans don't go to VA because they tried when they
came back from Vietnam and they got turned away so they
got disgruntled that they don't go anymore.
So what we do is sit down and talk with those veterans and
encourage them to go back through the VA system.
We help them negotiate the VA system, whereas that they can,
first off, get help.
We're talking about getting the medical
attention that they need.
See, if a person is hurting, if they need medical attention
and they need a psychiatrist helping them,
they can't really see how they can get help or even have a
desire to get off the street because they don't know how.
And so what we do, first off, is to try to help them physically,
by getting them enrolled in the VA system,
and then we counsel them and get them in the program.
If they need to see a psychiatrist,
they can go see that psychiatrist or psychologist,
whoever they need to go see, and then we work with them
and basically helping them with their claims.
And as far as homelessness is concerned,
at our national level, right now they have two programs that
outside the local level have an opportunity to basically all we
have to do, the program is already set,
all we have to do is do what they do.
There's no reason to reinvent the wheel.
Our national organization in Milwaukee,
on Memorial Day of last year, opened up a 52-unit,
$15 million facility, whereas they are housing veterans,
homeless veterans.
Currently that building today is full of homeless veterans,
male and female, and our transitional housing and
permanent housing in that location is full and they
have a waiting list of veterans right now.
Another program that they are running is a new one that they
just started is through partnership with the
Department of Housing and Urban Development,
and Center for Veteran Issues, who Bob Curry was talking about
a minute ago, is Operation Turning Point.
Whereas they opened up a 33-unit organization -- apartment,
they are going to lease those sites and put veterans in them,
counsel those veterans, get them back in the work force so as
they can be self-supporting.
And so all we're doing is helping veterans -- veterans
helping veterans.
That's basically all we're doing.
We are helping veterans to become self-sufficient whereas
they can help themselves, and that's just the way that we
believe that we should do it.
We believe -- here's the thing.
Veterans is a unique group of people,
and I believe that with everything (inaudible).
Number one, we can do things that other people can't do.
Veterans can help people where other people can't help them.
Number one, we have the skills.
We have the leadership skills.
We have the discipline to go out and help other folk.
And so veterans helping people is what we do in
our organization.
Helping veterans get off the street,
helping veterans get back in jobs.
And incidentally, you guys in Washington, D.C.
are fortunate because a gentleman right here in
Washington that's with NAVVets, brother Joe Wynn sitting right
here in the audience, he has his own business,
a 501C3 vet groups that help veterans
train veterans to get jobs.
And so, you know, we are fortunate, I'm fortunate,
to be above all of you and I'm more -- I'm fortunate to be in
this organization because this organization has basically
helped me help myself.
As a 20-year veteran in the United States Army,
a three-time Vietnam veteran, until I was in -- found out
about NAVVets after retiring from the military,
I didn't know where I could go to get help until I run into a
-- my wife's cousin that told me about this organization.
That's how I was able to get help for my issue.
I didn't know I had no issues.
I thought that's just the way you supposed to act.
But that's what we do.
Veterans helping veterans.
And thank you so much for being here,
and I thank you for this honor.
Dennis O'Neill: Thank you very much, Richard.
I think if you look at this, one of the common themes we've seen,
although a very unique approach is,
but as Richard really clearly articulated about connecting the
needs with the resources that are required to help
fulfill those gaps.
We do some of this with our public work,
but much of this is the public/private partnerships
that really help to move things forward in a way
that's positive.
T.J. -- excuse me -- T.J. Breeden has really kind of
come up with some unique ideas on emerging enterprises on how
to do that with -- as we talked about,
the 2.0 vets, the next generation.
So I look forward to seeing some of the challenges that you see
on connecting maybe some traditional services with
the unique needs of the vets of today.
T.J. Breeden: Right. First I'd like to say how humbled I am to share
acknowledgment with men and women that have sacrificed so
much in defense of our country.
And on behalf of myself and eMerging Entrepreneurs,
Incorporated, I just want to say how honored I am to be able to
participate today.
Our organization operates as a grass roots support agent to
those in our community who are seeking to advance their small
business interests.
We have developed a web-based training tool that allows those
who are either at the beginning stages of writing business plans
and looking to accelerate their small business development or
those that are a little bit further along in looking to
acquire government contracts.
There are so many opportunities out there for entrepreneurs and
we want to serve as a resource agent for those that are looking
to advance that.
So we partner with nonprofit organizations, churches,
military installations, local chambers of commerce to provide
these services -- and universities,
as well -- to provide these services to those that are
seeking to set up a small business,
start a small business.
And we've been somewhat successful.
We'd like to do more.
But we're real excited, I think, about the project that
we mentioned -- that was mentioned on our nomination
form, which is Momentum 2012.
And I can't take full credit.
I have to also acknowledge April Ellerbe of New Century Planning,
who's my partner in this and has been tremendous in terms of
helping me to shape this idea, that we wanted to have a one-day
symposium catered specifically to veterans and their spouses
that would offer small business tools that would address
unemployment and that would offer an array of services in
terms of helping those that are seeking to advance their
educational interests.
We've noticed that there is a bipartisan effort here in
Washington to cater to these specific issues.
So we wanted to respond to that and we created this program.
We've been very excited to partner with Fort Bragg,
and we're hosting the event on June 27th of this year.
And we have set aside a small business symposium for the
morning session through which we will provide those who are
interested in getting information regarding how
to acquire government contract, what is the process of making
yourself eligible for government contracting.
We're also going to have keynote speakers and panelists that are
going to speak to these specific issues,
getting access to capital, starting fund raising
opportunities, writing a business plan;
things that are necessary for you to advance your business.
And then we're also going to have as part of the full day
session a college recruitment assembly.
And we're really excited to have received commitments
from University of North Carolina Chapel Hill,
I'm sure we probably have some Tar Heels here,
as well as Duke University, North Carolina -- NC State,
University of Phoenix, Devries, traditional schools and
nontraditional schools, online schools and adult programs.
Because we want to make sure that we focus on not just giving
them access to universities, but also have success programs that
allow them to further their undergraduate or
graduate level interests.
And last but not least, we've also -- we're also going to
have a hiring fair.
And notice that I mention hiring fair, not jobs fair.
Because we want to make sure that we offer folks on-the-spot
interviews, not just pass in your resume and then hoping
for a call back.
If we can structure a program through which those that are
there in attendance have the opportunity to sit across from
a recruiter, an HR person and explain their credentials and
talk about how they're transitioning out of active duty
or how they've been searching for a job or, you know,
just be able to speak to their specific skill sets and not just
them, but their spouses, as well.
This is a family event.
And the event is completely free to the public -- well,
free to those in the military community.
And so we wanted to make sure that we incorporate that,
not a jobs fair, but a hiring fair,
so that you have an opportunity to interview on the spot.
And so we're really excited about this.
It will be held at Fort Bragg on base.
And we wanted it there because we wanted to be able to provide
those in attendance with the opportunity -- we want it to
be accessible, basically, to those groups.
And we're really excited about this.
And, again, I have to give a lot of credit to my partner,
because she has been tremendous in terms of helping me to shape
this, and we've gotten some support from different federal
agencies and state level organizations.
And we're really excited.
And in terms of what you mentioned about, you know,
the 2.0, we've developed a web-based training program
as part of our eMerging Entrepreneurs where a client
can come to our website, register their business,
give us some information about what they're doing.
We collect that information, we give them a call back,
and depending on what level they are,
we will assist them in any way we can.
We've had clients that are trying to start day cares.
We've had clients that are getting into government
contracting, into construction.
We've had clients that are trying to start home-based
businesses and trying to sell clothing.
We've had all sorts of businesses.
And what we realized is that the talented and the most skilled
among us are the ones that are having the most trouble.
So for our organization, it was strictly responding to a need.
And I think I can speak for other civilian
organizations that say that we strongly want to support
our military community.
And I would encourage those out there to, you know,
seek whatever skill that you have and put it into action,
not just for yourself, but for others.
And that has been a tremendous benefit for us because it
granted us the opportunity to work with so many fine folks.
And so we're really excited.
I have to give a web plug, visit us online if you're interested
in attending our event.
Again, it's at Fort Bragg on June 27th at the officer's club.
It is free for every person that is affiliated with the military,
spouses, as well.
We want it to be a family event.
Please visit
Let me get that right.
You can register online.
If you would like to participate as an exhibiter,
you can register online, as well.
We're really excited.
So I wanted to share that.
I know I'm a bit long-winded.
But we encourage everyone to visit us online.
And also if you're seeking to start a small business,
also look us up on the web,
We're ready to serve.
We're a nonprofit organization.
There is no charge and we want to help.
Dennis O'Neill: Thanks, T.J.
I also am just excited about the passion.
And I appreciate the efforts of the multigenerations represented
here to come together around a common cause.
I think Mr. Reynolds did a good job of capturing early on some
of the unique challenges that we have in translating skill sets
into something that many of our partners can understand.
How do you take a military occupational specialty and
make sure that a civilian employer can understand that?
And Cassaundra St. John has taken a family approach,
the families that T.J. talked about, on how do we look at
the whole family and specifically for our women.
So I would love to hear some of your approaches of F7 and VetPro
and what are the things that you're doing in helping connect
those communication gaps.
Cassaundra St. John: Sure, absolutely, thank you.
And I appreciate the honor of being here and the opportunity
to share our program.
As Mr. O'Neill stated, I spent the first 18 years of my life
raised by a command sergeant major in the Army and a four
star general mother, or at least if you've been raised
by a command sergeant major, you know that your mother thought
she was a four star general.
The next 12 years of my life I spent in the Air Force.
I was also a military spouse while I was active duty.
So I have walked the many paths and I understand the commitment
of the entire family in service to our country.
So all of you who are here who are spouses, mothers, daughters,
sisters, I commend you for the sacrifice that you've also made
for our country, because it is a team effort, it is a family.
So I spent the majority of my life in the military,
had a very myopic view of the world.
And when I got out of the military,
I thought this is great, I have a really high security
clearance, I am highly trained, I'm going to
get a phenomenal job.
And about a week later, I walked into my first civilian job and
they said here is where the potatoes are peeled,
and they fall into this huge vat and you stand right here and you
pick out the burnt ones.
And I thought, oh, my God, what am I doing?
What have I gotten myself into?
How do they not understand literally going from answering
a red phone to picking out a burnt potato chip.
So I quickly knew I needed to get an advanced education.
And we had the Montgomery GI bill back then,
so I took advantage of that, got my education,
got an advanced degree.
And fast forward 20 years, had a lot of great opportunities,
built some phenomenal businesses.
And a few years ago, I was with my business partner,
Victoria Wegwert, and we had merged our business to help
women entrepreneurs develop themselves and really build --
I have a mantra of, you know, what's going to change this
economy is Main Street, not Wall Street.
So it's back to the people.
It's back to building businesses.
And we looked around and quite honestly thought, you know,
why isn't anybody doing things more for women veterans?
Why isn't Austin and Washington and Sacramento,
why are organizations and governments and counties not
doing more for women?
And then literally we stopped and looked at each other and
said, why are we not doing anything?
We have access to women who are highly successful,
phenomenal business women, have climbed the corporate ladder.
Why are we not opening these doors?
These doors have been opened to us.
And we say that traditionally men are very good at mentoring
one another and bringing one another up in the ranks.
And some background for women, maybe we haven't done that as
much for each other and for one another.
We learn very quickly in the military,
sometimes we don't do that as much because we are playing in
the boys' sandbox and we are really competing for -- there's
five of us and there's three seats and, you know,
we're going to get those three seats,
but we need to remember that we can just make the table bigger.
We can just build the sea bigger.
And so that's what we do with our organization.
We have reached out to some phenomenal organizations and
women, Vernice Armour, Bergman International, Home Depot,
people who value and see the value of the women who serve,
both in and beside the uniform.
We do that through retreats and boot camps.
We do have a retreat coming up this week.
In fact, I got an email about this incredible honor,
and then I looked up and said, I -- there's no way,
I can't do that.
We have a retreat of about 200 women coming to Austin,
Texas that starts tomorrow morning, and we will train them.
We will reintegrate them, everything from Korea War
to women who are just now getting out of the military.
So breaking down a lot of the barriers that we
put amongst ourselves.
We are all eras, we are all branches, we have all ranks.
None of that matters when you come to our retreats and our
business boot camps.
We're there to work together.
The other part of what we do, and that's the gap I think we
all said we saw, was that companies don't know.
They don't know how to utilize our skills.
Maybe working in a potato chip factory was a very good ego
check for me, but it was not the best use of my talents
and my skills.
So we have developed a program called VetPro and we go in and
we train companies, not just to hire a veteran.
That's great that you can hire a veteran,
you can get a stipend from the government,
you can feel like you've done the right thing.
I don't want you to hire a veteran because it's the
right thing to do.
I want you to hire a veteran because I can quantify for you
why it makes business sense for you.
It makes -- I'm going to tie it directly to your bottom line.
So we're going to get you in there,
we're going to put a veteran in the right position in the right
company, and then we're going to look for longevity.
And then you can market to the military community.
Then you can really bring the picture together.
So it's a complete 360 program and the mentoring
for the next generation.
We are also working with the Girl Scouts of America,
so we have the women who have already served.
And then we need to remember to continue that teaching on to the
next generation.
So it's a very comprehensive program.
I think that's what we all here are doing is very much have the
mantra of Colonel Sutherland that it takes a sea of good
will, it takes a community to build together.
I think what has happened here today,
and all of the people not only on the panel,
but are here visiting, this is a great opportunity.
But this is just the tip of the spear.
What really matters is what happens from this room,
how we take what we are doing and how we build together and
what change we make from here.
That will make the difference of this day.
Thank you.
Dennis O'Neill: Thank you.
Hernan Luis y Prado: Thank you. I appreciate it.
Exactly. Like most of us, I know you all are familiar
with the expression CRS, you can't remember some things.
I forgot -- I serve Workshops for Warriors.
And that's
Again, thank you very much.
Dennis O'Neill: Thanks to all the members of the panelists,
and Cassaundra, thank you for closing out.
And it's a great honor to be here with each and every one
of you today.
And I think we'll turn it back over to Darian.
Darian Page: Well, I just want to thank everyone for being here,
and especially to our champions, your input today was incredible
and we can't thank you enough for being here and for the work
that you do, as I'm a third generation Army veteran.
So it means a lot from a military child standpoint,
and from a veteran's standpoint.
So thank you all.
Thank you for your time.
We'll look forward to continuing the conversation.
Have a good day.