Joining Forces Blog
- Posted byon July 2, 2014 at 5:23 PM EDT
As the Fourth of July weekend approaches, Americans everywhere will gather to celebrate the birth of our nation with a traditional fireworks display, a nice barbecue, or by spending time with family and friends. The Fourth of July is also a time to honor the patriotism and dedication of our military and their families.
There is no greater debt than the one owed to our service members, as well as the families of those who have sacrificed so much for the freedoms we enjoy. I often reflect on those who have given us so much throughout history, as well as the thousands of service members who are still in harm’s way today. We should never forget that the freedoms we sometimes may take for granted in our nation were paid for in lives.
I recently met a veteran who embodies this spirit and more. Saif Khan honors veterans the best way he knows how — through action. Saif invests in our nation by leading a non-profit organization dedicated to helping veterans and their families with employment opportunities. He believes that the best way to show appreciation for our veterans is to "pay it forward" for our next generation, and provide support for those returning home to their communities.
Saif emigrated to the U.S. from India as a child and joined the Virginia Army National Guard after high school. He served as a Combat Engineer in Mosul, Iraq, during Operation Iraqi Freedom from 2004 to 2005. Since returning from Iraq, Saif has been a strong advocate for veterans, and has worked with senior military leaders and legislators to identify problems returning veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan face. Saif has also been active in helping military families with employment opportunities; in May, he organized a career resource fair to match veterans and military families with recruiters from local law enforcement and emergency response agencies.
Saif and the many thousands of Americans who have dedicated their efforts to supporting our returning veterans fill me with pride, hope, and a sense of optimism for our nation. It’s important that we ensure no veteran has to fight for a job at home after they fight for our nation overseas. As more and more AAPIs answer the call to serve, we must follow Saif’s example and ensure returning veterans have the opportunity to prosper in their hometown communities. It’s imperative that they have access to employment resources, educational opportunities, and health and wellness services when they return home. President Obama has made it a national priority to ensure that military members and their families are cared for, and many organizations are engaging in the type of work Saif does every day.
Getting Involved with Joining Forces
Three years ago, First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden started Joining Forces to show their appreciation for the incredible families across America who do so much for our country — not just with words, but with real, concrete action. Joining Forces is a national initiative to engage all sectors of society to support our service members. The initiative brings attention to the unique needs and strengths of America’s military families and showcases the incredible skills and experience of veterans and military spouses. Joining Forces encourages concrete actions and for all Americans to "step up" and show their gratitude to our service members and their families through action.
In April, the First Lady and Dr. Biden launched the Veterans Employment Center (VEC) website. The VEC is the result of extensive interagency collaboration between the Department of Defense, Department of Labor, Department of Veterans Affairs, and other federal partners. It is designed to provide veterans and transitioning service members a “one-stop shop” website to post resumes, translate their military skills, and search for jobs. Additionally, the VEC enables employers to post jobs and search veteran resumes for potential hires — it’s a huge leap ahead, both for veteran job seekers and for employers looking to hire veterans.
This Fourth of July, we should remember that the fiber of the American mosaic is woven by diverse communities represented in our Armed Forces. In the coming years, we must focus on supporting the hundreds of thousands of veterans seeking opportunities after returning to their local communities. Saif is the perfect example of an AAPI leader who is doing this. He is "paying it forward" for America every day, and our nation will be all the better for it.
To learn more about how you can support military members and their families, visit the Joining Forces website at http://www.whitehouse.gov/joiningforces.
Lt. Col. Ravi Chaudhary is a member of the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
- Posted byon June 30, 2014 at 3:00 PM EDT
Recently, I had the pleasure of joining the American Logistics Association (ALA) to thank and congratulate them as they announced that their member companies have hired more than 25,000 veterans and military spouses in the past three years. In October 2011, ALA was one of the first private-sector associations to answer the President’s call to hire more than 100,000 veterans.
ALA is one of many groups that have made significant commitments and contributions to hiring veterans and military spouses. Their member companies have seen that hiring these veterans and spouses is not only the right thing to do, but it is also good for their bottom line. At Joining Forces, we encourage more associations; large and small businesses; and state and local communities to step forward and hire veterans and military spouses — and we’re highlighting ways to make it even easier.
Connecting veterans with employers is an important step in supporting our economy and supporting our veterans and military families. In April of this year, the First Lady and Dr. Biden, announced the Department of Veterans Affairs’ E-Benefits Employment Center, the newest tool to support companies hiring veterans, and veteran job seekers.
Colonel Steve Parker, U.S. Army, is the Executive Director of Joining Forces.
- Posted byon June 22, 2014 at 1:10 PM EDT
Today marks the 70th anniversary of the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944. The landmark legislation was also commonly called the GI Bill of Rights and today, after the passage of successive GI Bills following the Korean War, Vietnam and most recently, the post 9/11 version; is now known simply as the GI Bill. Administered by the US Department of Veterans Affairs, these GI Bills represent critically important legislative successes for America's service members, veterans, survivors and their families.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944 into law on June 22, 1944. The law required the Veterans Administration (VA) to carry out key provisions for education and training, loan guaranty for homes, farms and businesses, and unemployment pay.
In the last 70 years, successive iterations of the GI Bill have helped millions of service members, veterans, survivors, and their families buy new homes, pursue higher education and obtain professional certifications. Countless success stories of veterans who have used the GI Bill serve to highlight the power of this earned benefit. We don't readily attribute the success of Nobel Prize Laureates, famed actors, accomplished artists, movie producers and former US Presidents to the GI Bill; but perhaps we should -- individuals from all these areas are counted among its recipients.
- Posted byon June 19, 2014 at 7:00 PM EDT
At the White House this afternoon, President Obama awarded the Medal of Honor to Corporal William "Kyle" Carpenter, a retired United States Marine. Corporal Carpenter received the medal for his courageous actions during combat operations against an armed enemy in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.
By all accounts, Kyle shouldn't be alive today. On November 21, 2010, Kyle's platoon woke up to the sound of AK-47 fire. As their compound began taking fire, Kyle and Lance Corporal Nicholas Eufrazio took cover up on a roof, low on their backs behind a circle of sandbags. And then a grenade landed nearby, its pin already pulled.
- Posted byon June 18, 2014 at 12:39 PM EDT
On June 14, the United States Army celebrated its 239th birthday. Since 1775, in war and in peace, American soldiers and their families have answered the nation’s call to serve — to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Today we honor that service and pay tribute to the 187 campaign streamers that adorn the Army flag.
The total Army is comprised of more than 1.1 million men and women in uniform, supported by civilians and the families of the Active Army, Army Reserve, and National Guard. America’s all-volunteer Army is the best trained, best equipped, most capable land force in the world. Today’s Army is engaged in the longest period of combat operations in our nation’s history. On behalf of a grateful nation, we applaud the many contributions of our soldiers, veterans, survivors, and their families.
As the 38th Chief of Staff of the Army, Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, often reminds us: "The strength of our Nation is our Army, the strength of our Army is our Soldiers, the strength of our Soldiers is our Families. This is what makes us Army Strong."
- Posted byon June 15, 2014 at 7:54 PM EDT
Tuesday, January 20th, 2009 is a day that most Americans know as the day that our 44th President was sworn into office. Of course, I recall the historical and social significance too, but I missed the inaugural speech because this was also the day that my oldest son was born. I “witnessed” the birth via telephone from Iraq. I was 8 months into the deployment, so not only did I miss being in the delivery room, I also missed the morning sickness, the 1st ultrasound and all the other memories that went along with the pregnancy. Hearing my son’s first cries over the telephone and knowing I wouldn’t meet him or hold him for six more weeks was an incredible feeling that I would have to put aside until later. Military fathers know this drill all too well. Missing important, personal moments; delaying or setting aside the emotions of the day until some other, more convenient time -- that’s the selfless part of serving.
Father’s Day is a recognition for fathers across the world but a special one for military fathers. My story of missing the birth of my first son is not unique; rather it is a sacrifice shared by nearly every father in the military. Whether on a submarine or a ship at sea, flying the skies or patrolling the lands of a distant outpost in the Middle East, Africa or Asia, American military fathers have missed more than their fair share of important personal moments. Families have sacrificed, too. Countless fathers have missed first steps, first days of school, first dates and graduations. We have missed those times when dads are needed to offer advice or understanding. Wounded Warriors have long had a saying that “it’s not about what you have lost; it’s about what you have left."
This Father’s Day, I simply encourage every family, but especially military, veteran and survivor families, to spend quality time together. Acknowledge the difficulty of all the moments missed; then immediately begin to focus on all the possibilities that are left. Knowing the challenges of being away for extended periods of time makes us all infinitely more grateful for the days we have together. Seize this Father’s Day and every day to unpack those special moments you previously set aside – now’s the time!
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