I just returned from Fire Station Number 5 in Arlington, VA where I got to listen to President Obama discuss the $1 billion proposal he will place before Congress that is designed to put up to 20,000 veterans back to work in our public lands working on rebuilding the infrastructure that makes up these great places.
To quote from our President, “After a decade of war, our nation needs to do some rebuilding right here at home…Iraq is over, nearly 3 million are transitioning to civilian life and veterans bring unparalleled skills…Every business should be competing to attract veterans.” And so it is, that our President will push Congress to replace the spending on the war in Iraq and Afghanistan with half going to pay down our debt, and half going to rebuilding America.
During his speech he stated that veterans had protected our nation and deserve the opportunity to rebuild it as well. I for one, applaud the initiative and I hope you join me. While it is not a fix all, nor does it necessarily address some of the systematic flaws currently embedded in the current transition process, it’s a step, and a big step at that in the right direction.
It is first and foremost a very public recognition of the diverse and often unique, skill sets our serving men and women are gaining. It is also, as I noted this morning, only one piece of a broader package focused on ensuring that our troops returning from battle can find a job when they come back home.
Also announced and discussed were:
- Incentives to police forces and fire departments to hire veterans; recognition of the value we as veterans place on physical challenges and camaraderie at work
- Two new tax credits and a challenge to corporations and businesses to hire veterans helping to level the playing field with non-veteran employees
- Entrepreneurial training programs; recognizing veterans’ critical thinking skills, leadership, and desire for a strong challenge
There is plenty to debate about the proposal. We’ll get to that next week. There are plenty of things that are still not being done in active duty support and the transition from serving military to veteran status. For example, we need to be far more aggressive in addressing the issues surrounding military sexual trauma and ensuring justice is carried out. We need to revamp the ACAP program and hiring managers on the outside to improve their understanding of how military skills translate into the work force. We need better access to mental health care counseling, and improved family support networks, but folks, this is an important and powerful next step.
We can be happy about it. We should be.
As veterans we need to realize that every now and again things are moving in the right direction and this is one of those things. Enjoy it for this weekend, know that significant things are happening and happening in a good way. And on Monday morning, we can argue the proposals finer points, discuss what we’d rather have done, or if your me, keep on cheering a proposal that recognizes the value of wilderness, the outdoors, service, hard work, and our public lands to us, the American veteran.
Thanks Mr. Obama.
Have a great Super Bowl weekend….and go Giants.
~Stacy Bare, OIF Veteran
Military Families and Veteran Representative to the Sierra Club
"Helping America's Military and Veteran Community experience the freedom of the land they defend"