by Gina Sobania ~
Over the last 11 years, I have been afforded the opportunity to present and interact with thousands of Veterans, Servicemembers and their families. I always start my presentations by stating that I have not served in the military, but that I am a proud daughter of a Vietnam Veteran.
I work weekends, evenings and even holidays because I am paying it forward for my Dad. He never received the welcome home, resources and supports that current day Veterans and Servicemembers receive.
I encourage participants to pay it forward for the next generation of Veterans and Servicemembers so that we can continue our support.
I was part of the Employment Resource Team (ERT) that traveled to Kuwait in March 2012 to work with the 1st Brigade Combat Team (my blog that I wrote while in Kuwait is here: http://mnscumilitary.blogspot.com/). The unemployment rate for this large group of deployed soldiers was hovering around 30%. The Minnesota National Guard sent a team comprised of three Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) Veterans Employment Representatives, three corporate partners (Target, Best Buy and US Bank), a Higher Education Veterans Program coordinator from the MN Department of Veterans Affairs, and an individual from the St. Paul Chamber of Commerce.
I was fortunate to represent Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU). We anticipated seeing around 500 Soldiers, but over 5 days we saw over 1,100 Soldiers. One Soldier in particular was there every day, working on his resume and hoping to secure employment when he returned home.
Fast forward to April 2012: A group of state agencies and MnSCU are in Camp Shelby, Mississippi at the de-mobilization site for the Soldiers that were returning from Kuwait. The Soldier that I saw every day in Kuwait was now at Camp Shelby. He had phone interviews while in Kuwait and was waiting to hear back about them.
When I returned from lunch one day everyone was asking if I had seen him. “I’ve seen him every day,” I kept saying. I was then told that he received a job offer and was headed back to Minnesota! I remember asking him what his GPS LifePlan goal was. He stated “an office with windows.” Check. … He achieved his goal!
The targeted intervention of the ERT in Kuwait dropped the unemployment rate of returning Servicemembers to 1.3% six months after their return to Minnesota.
Anyone can help Veterans and Servicemembers. Anyone. It doesn’t need to take a team; individuals can provide support and resources.
If you are looking for ways to support Servicemembers and military families, look for a Yellow Ribbon Community, City or County in your area.
Last, but certainly not least, on Veteran’s Day, please take time to thank those that served or are serving in the military.
And thank you, Servicemembers, for your service to our country. Your strength, courage and dedication are respected and admired every day, and not just on Veterans Day. I extend my heartfelt appreciation for what you have done and continue to do to protect our freedoms.
Gina Sobania is the Director of Military, Veteran and Adult Learner Services at Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, writes about her experiences helping Veterans find work after their tours of duty are over.