Saturday, July 23, 2011

Troy Yocum and veterans issues


(Troy Yocum photo taken by John Crosby)

Hike for our Heroes is a non-profit started by Iraq War veteran Troy Yocum who is hiking across the country to raise awareness and money for veterans issues. He began the walk in April 2010 with the plan of 7,000 miles. WSYR (link has text and video) reports Troy has already met his goal in miles and has now journeyed over 7,000 miles. In Syracuse he met with the family of Cpl Kyle Schneider who was killed in Iraq last month. Troy is quoted stating, "It's families like Kyle's that we met today, who really inspire me to keep going. I know that no matter what they would always soldier on." Kyle Schneider's mother, Lorie Schneider, stats, "We take it step by step, breathe by breath, and Troy takes it step by step across America." Jennifer Kingsley (Star-Gazette) adds:

"In the last six years, over 19,000 military families have applied for assistance but only about 50 percent of those soldiers have been helped," Troy said.
Troy came up with the idea while he was deployed in southern Iraq. An e-mail from a good friend and fellow Iraq war veteran told of the struggles on the home front -- how he'd lost his job in a struggling economy.

Matthew A. Ward (Reuters) reports on unemployment among the young veterans of today's wars and notes that (male) veterans between the ages of 18 and 24 are the hardest hit with 28.3% unemployment (an increase of 5.4% from last year) while (male) veterans aged 25 to 34 have an unemployment rate of 14.5%. Iraq War veteran Vincent Moore Jr. notes that, in the Air Force, he "worked as a medical technician" but that "The only certification that I left with that was recongnizable was my Basic Life Support (CPR) certifcation." As some members of Congress have noted, it's the lack of certification that may be hurting veterans the most. The training, for example, in the medical field that they receive in the service is not counted in the civilian world because the military does not have a certification program.

US House Rep Bob Filner raised the issue in the June 1st House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing.

US House Rep Bob Filner: But what are we all doing here? I mean this ought to be a top priority for everybody. And I can imagine -- you guys are the experts -- but if I just thought about it for a few seconds I could think of what the VA could be doing. I mean, why isn't every regional office, for example, putting out a list of veterans and their specialties and what they're seeking jobs as? You guys all said we have trouble linking up with who the veterans are. Well the VA knows every veteran. Let's just put out a list of everybody who's looking for a job. I mean, it just doesn't seem difficult. We hear about the transition of skills in the military being hard to translate. We could deem anybody who's in electronics or a medic or a truck driver -- I mean, we can give them a certificate that says "For the purposes of hiring, this serves as" you know "what ever entry level." And people can be trained further. But they have incredible skills. We've been working on this civilian certification for, I don't know, decades. Nobody can seem to solve it. We've got guys truck driving all over Iraq or Afghanistan, they come home and they find out they have to take a six month course to get a commercial driving license. They say, "Hey, what do I need that for?" And they get discouraged. They're truck drivers. They know how to do it and they do it under the most difficult conditions you can imagine. Let them have a certificate that starts with a job. Or electronics people or medics. I mean, I've watched these medics. They have incredible -- they do things that no civilian would ever think of doing and yet they've got to go through some other certification, masters and go to this college and that college. Come on. They have the training. And we could just do it.

And it's an issue that US Senator Patty Murray's Hiring Heroes Act of 2011 is attempting to address. Murray is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and June 8th, when the Committee met to discuss proposed bills, she explained the Hiring Heroes Act of 2011.

Committee Chair Patty Murray: For too long, we have been investing billions of dollars training our young men and women to protect our nation, only to ignore them when they come home. For too long, we have patted them on the back and pushed them into the civilian job market with no support. This is simply unacceptable and does not meet the promise we made to our men and women in uniform. Our hands-off approach has left us with an unemployment rate in February of over 27 percent among young veterans coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan. That is over one in four of our nation's heroes who can't find a job to support their family. Over one in four of our service men and women lack the stability that is so critical to their transition home. That's why last month I introduced the bipartisan Hiring Heroes Act of 2011 which now has 19 co-sponsors. This legislation will help us rething the way we support our service members as they return home and search for living-wage jobs. I introduced this critical legislation because I've heard first-hand from the veterans for whom we've failed to provide better job support. I've had veterans tell me that they no longer write that they're a veteran on their resume because they fear the stigma they believe employers attach to the invisible wounds of war. I've heard from medics who return home from treating battlefield wounds who can't get certifications to be an EMT or to drive an ambulance. These stories are as heartbreaking as they are frustratng. But more than anything, they're a reminder that we have to act now. The Hiring Heroes Act would allow our men and women in uniform to capitalize on their services while also ensuring that the American people capitalize on the investment we have made in them. For the first time, it would require every service member transitioning from active duty to partipate in the Transition Assistance Program [TAP]. This program supports our veterans by providing them with broad job skills training before they separate from service. This bill would also allow service members to begin the federal employment process prior to separation. It would also require the Department of Labor to take a hard look at what military skills and training should be translatable to the civilian sector. This is a much needed step toward making it simpler for veterans to obtain much needed licenses and certifications. And, finally, my legislation would allow for innovative partnerships between VA, DoD and organizations that provide mentorship and training programs designed to lead to job placements for veterans. All of these are real, substantial steps to put our veterans to work and they come at a pivotal time for our economic recovery and our service members.
The following community sites -- plus Random Thoughts, Watching America, Jane Fonda, On The Wilder Side and NOW -- updated last night and today:

We'll close with this from Sherwood Ross' "Impeach Obama" (Bodhi Thunder):

It's time to impeach President Obama and urge candidates who stand for peace to run in the upcoming presidential primaries.

President Obama is no Democrat in the traditional meaning of the word. He has not only failed to tackle the nation's unemployment woes and retraining needs, as a real Democrat would do, but he's been a player in the Bankers' Bailout and he's indicated his willingness to compromise Social Security and Medicare, two highly successful, humanitarian systems that are a lifeline to the vast majority of the nation's elderly, sick, and infirm.

Mr. Obama has also failed to lift his hand effectively in behalf of the struggling poor, particularly our Hispanic, African-American and rural poor. Again, as in the time of Franklin Roosevelt, we see one-third of a nation ill-housed, while true unemployment hovers at Depression Era levels, closer to 20 per cent than 10 per cent and college graduates cannot find jobs.

Yet worse than anything Obama has done or not done domestically, are the illegal wars he's waging across Asia and Africa, several of which he inherited from the preceding criminal in the Oval Office and to which he might have made a speedy end. Quite on his own, however, he has expanded the war in Pakistan and has initiated new wars in Libya, Sudan, and Yemen. These wars are being pushed despite a building majority opposition of Americans who are telling Congress and the pollsters they want the return of our troops from distant battlefields and bases.

Mr. Obama has also granted himself kingly powers to destroy human beings on suspicion of wrongdoing, and has sent hundreds of innocent people, children included, to their deaths in the process via drone plane attacks. He continues to operate countless prisons around the world created by his criminal predecessor President George W. Bush, a mass murderer, where human beings have been tortured and murdered, denied due process of law, and where kidnapped men are suffering year after year in gray limbo, and, incredibly, where even children have been tortured and raped. He is keeping Guantanamo open despite his promise to close it and he denies those imprisoned there, as elsewhere, lawyers and fair trials. If he is the best Harvard Law School can produce it should be shut down. A constitutional lawyer who conducts himself this way should be disbarred; a president who conducts himself this way should be impeached and prosecuted.

One tipoff to Mr. Obama's character has been his cruel punishment of Army intelligence specialist Bradley Manning for performing a humanitarian service---blowing the whistle on U.S. helicopter pilots in Baghdad who killed defenseless civilians and reporters. You would think that the Pentagon would want to know if any of its soldiers committed war crimes. Instead, it looks the other way. No president in our history ever has gone after whistle-blowers with the vengeance of this man; and only his immediate predecessor has shown so great a proclivity not to prosecute the guilty torturers and murderers among the jailers of the military, CIA, and contract fighters.

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oh boy it never ends