Veterans Program Helps Returning Military Transition Into Workforce

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GLEN ELLYN – Veteran Paul Gawley of Downers Grove worked for years in construction management after serving with the Naval Construction Battalion at the end of the Vietnam War.

But that changed around 2008, after the housing market collapsed and the real estate projects he was managing shut down.

He spent much of 2008 through 2010 with little – sometimes no – work. Although things have picked up within the last few years, the housing market still isn’t what it once was.

Gawley’s story is similar to those of many during the recent economic downturn. But these setbacks are particularly devastating to veterans, who sometimes experience difficulty transitioning to the private sector and finding work.

Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (MEEA) runs the country’s first ever Building Operator Certification (BOC) program for unemployed and underemployed veterans, program manager Aimee Skrzekut said. The program is housed at College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn and provides veterans with the skills they need to work in facility management, with a special focus on energy efficiency.

Gawley, along with other veterans, participated in the program from February through May. It was previously held in Springfield last August.

As part of the program, veterans attended a full day of class at COD every other Wednesday. Classes covered a variety of topics related to facility management and were taught by professionals in each respective area, Skrzekut said.

To supplement classroom learing, veterans completed hands-on projects with assigned mentors, who work in building operations locally.

One professional who served as a mentor was Ed Kelly, who is the HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) foreman at Wheaton College.

Kelly had previously completed MEEA’s BOC program for those already in the field before becoming a mentor. After learning the veterans program would be housed at COD, he agreed to be a mentor when approached by MEEA officials.

“These people have given years of their life, so it makes me feel good to be able to do something when they come home,” Kelly said.

COD is always looking for ways to help people enter the workforce, and hosting the program at the college’s facilities was an opportunity for COD to partner with the local workforce board and county offices to do that, said Debbie Hasse, program manager for business solutions.

Skrzekut said MEEA was looking to offer the program in the northern part of the state, and COD made sense as a location. However, the goal is to reach as many veterans as possible, so the program is expected to relocate to various locations across Illinois, she said.

Those interested should visit Although the exact dates and locations haven’t been announced for the next veteran program, Skrzekut said veterans could add themselves to a waiting list to be notified about program information when it becomes available.

Veteran Hector Ayala of Aurora, who also graduated from the BOC program, said he’d recommend other veterans to participate.

A recent retiree of the military, Ayala ended his service with the Marine Corps last November and spent about two months looking for work before learning about the BOC program at a job fair.

Now that he has completed the program, he will begin work as a first line supervisor with ComEd this summer.

He said other veterans should take advantage of the resources that are available to them because skills learned in the military can be transferred to jobs in the private sector; it’s just a matter of finding where those jobs are.

“Most of all, just try to remain positive,” Ayala said.

Veterans Built the West Bench

by Deborah Pfeiffer – Castanet
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Photo: Contributed
Old article about veterans getting lots in West Bench.

In 1952, Eric Selby by the luck of a draw was the first veteran to choose a lot in West Bench, according to news reports of the day.

Now more than 60 years later, a tribute to him and all the veterans who made the community what it is today has been carefully constructed in a park named for Selby.

And on Saturday, June 15 the public is invited to view this special tribute to the men who returned from World War II eager to rebuild their lives in Canada all those decades ago.

“Veterans built that community from scratch developing the parks and water system,” said Mark Woods, community services manager with the Regional District Okanagan-Similkameen. “So this tribute is to recognize all of them.”

The community overlooking Pentiction was essentially created under the Veterans’ Land Act, VLA, to provide housing and a source of agricultural income to those coming home from the war.

It was Sue Gibbons, the daughter of navy veteran Bob Jenkins, who set the wheels in motion in 2009 to provide the recognition.
Her father was the first person she ran it by and he was immediately receptive.

She then approached the Area F Parks Commission and the RDOS and pitched her idea.

They too thought it was a good project, and the Veterans’ Tribute in Selby Park came into being thanks to a grant from Veterans’ Affairs Canada.

“My mom and dad bought a lot and built when I was 4, so I am a product of the West Bench,” said Gibbons. “So I felt it would be fitting to honour our original veterans, who founded this community.”

The tribute includes a new wheelchair accessible ramp and stairs into the park, steel cut sculptures and a crush rock pathway leading to a gathering table, featuring a map of the original Veterans’ Land Act subdivision of 1952 and 1957.

On the day of the grand opening at the park, 2224 West Bench Drive, there will be a piping-in of neighbourhood veterans, a formal ribbon cutting ceremony, background on the idea for the tribute and a presentation to the park designers, architect Chris Allen, alongside Cal Meiklejohn.

Neighbours will be invited to share stories.

For Gibbons the day will be both exciting and bittersweet.

Bob Jenkins died at the age of 89 on May 4.

“This means a lot to me and the community,” she said. “Sadly, my father died before the grand opening.”

Stolen Valor Act Reaches Supreme Court

Posted by Levi Newman

The Stolen Valor Act, signed into law by U.S. President Bush in 2006, was enacted with a conscious effort to deter people from falsely representing having received any U.S. military decoration or medal.

The act granted more authority to Federal law enforcement officers, broadening the law to cover false claims, in order to protect the reputation and meaning of military heroism medals. What this means is that it is illegal for unauthorized persons to wear, buy, sell, barter, trade, or manufacture “any decoration or medal authorized by Congress for the armed forces of the United States, or any of the service medals or badges awarded to the members of such forces.”

Dozens of men and women have ignored this law and have been prosecuted accordingly, but a recent ruling by the 9th Circuit Court on a California case from 2007 has garnered the attention of the U.S. Supreme Court, and now the rest of America.

Xavier Alvarez was tried and found guilty of violating the 2006 act when he told event planner Melissa Campbell that he was a former Marine and recipient of the Medal of Honor. Unfortunately for him, Ms. Campbell herself was a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who had 10 years of service, and knew that he wasn’t telling the truth. Nevertheless, he appealed his conviction, claiming it violated his Constitutional right of free speech.

There are now two opposing views in this ever-growing free speech debate. One side believes that there shouldn’t be a law to “shame” those that lie about their military service, and that no harm is done by doing so. On the contrary, others view these cases as serious breaches of honor within American society.

The argument here is not whether the Constitution should or should not protect false statements, but whether or not lying should be an offense punishable by law. Should we allow those that would misrepresent the U.S. military a free pass on grounds of freedom of speech, or should we, as a country, protect and defend the honor of our nations’ heroes who have selflessly protected and defended our home?

Ms. Campbell eventually suffered from following the letter of the law. After exposing Mr. Alvarez’s medal claim as a hoax, she was reportedly fired. Her company cited “unprofessionalism” as the reason, in regards to approaching Mr. Alvarez during the tour he was taking. The company refused to respond about her departure, citing a policy of not commenting on personnel matters.

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Why Do They Frighten Us With Syrian Chemical Weapons?

Why Do They Frighten Us With Syrian Chemical Weapons?

Why Do They Frighten Us With Syrian Chemical Weapons?

Sunday, June 2nd, 2013 | Posted by Veterans Today
Why Do They Frighten Us With Syrian Chemical Weapons?

By Peter LVOV (Russia) for Veterans Today

Why Do They Frighten Us With Syrian Chemical Weapons?The latest reports on the confiscation of two kilogrammes of sarin gas, a powerful neurotoxin, from safe houses in Adana, South Turkey, some 150 kilometres from the border with Syria, earlier this week, adds the relevance to an insightful comment by Peter Lvov, a Middle East expert from New Eastern Outlook, on who in reality is frightening us with alleged Syrian Chemical Weapons:Recent statements by senior officials of the United States and other countries concerning Syria’s possible use of chemical weapons against opposition fighters have raised a legitimate question — who do the statements benefit, and why are they being made?

US Under-Secretary of State Wendy Sherman told Congress that chemical weapons have been used twice during the conflict. Secretary of State John Kerry said previously that there is a good evidence that the Syrian Army has used chemical weapons against the rebels.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has also said that he has “evidence” that the Syrian government has employed chemical weapons against the opposition. In an interview he gave the US news media Erdogan said Turkish hospitals are treating patients injured by chemical weapons in Syria. He flatly rejected the suggestion that opposition units could have used the chemical weapons.

Syrian Chemical Weapons facilities mapped by Monterey Institute of International Studies (USA)

Syrian Chemical Weapons facilities mapped by Monterey Institute of International Studies (USA)

To begin with, we need to know what kind of chemical weapons Damascas has and where they are located. After all, Syria is one of seven states that have not signed the 1993 Convention banning chemical weapons, and, although until recently it had officially denied possessing chemical weapons, Western experts believe it has an arsenal of chemical and biological weapons. Syria offically admitted possessing chemical and biological weapons for the first time on July 23, 2012. Damascus also let it be known that it could employ them as a means of defense if subjected to foreign aggression. Then it repeatedly said that it would not use them against its own citizens under any circumstances, even if members of the opposition get hold of them. Syrian authorities subsequently said the rebels had captured a chemical plant near Aleppo and expressed concern that they might use chemical weapon components. The Syrian Interior Ministry sent a letter about that to the UN Security Council and Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon.

The plant in question is obviously the Safira Plant near Aleppo, which was captured by the al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front. That plant specializes in producing sodium hydroxide and hydrogen chloride. News from Aleppo indicates that government troops were able to recapture the plant, but that did not end the danger because the rebels could have stolen a quantiy of CW agents or components used in CW manufacture in order later to use them against the army or to create a provocation. That has evidently happened, but the United States was quick to say that they were used not by the rebels but by government forces against the rebels.Read full Article Here

Obama says don’t take American troops for granted

Obama Memorial Day

Obama Memorial Day

The Associated Press

Published: May 27, 2013

Obama memorial day

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Members of the U.S. Army’s 3rd Infantry Regiment “The Old Guard,” salute as President Barack Obama’s motorcade prepares to depart the Memorial Day Observance at the Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery Monday, May 27, 2013, in Arlington, Va. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

ARLINGTON, Va. — President Barack Obama said Monday that Americans must honor the sacrifices of their fighting men and women, particularly at a time when the U.S. combat role in Iraq has ended and the country’s involvement in Afghanistan is winding down.

Speaking at Memorial Day ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery, Obama said he worries that the country’s servicemen and women aren’t being fully appreciated in an era in which “most Americans are not directly touched by war.” He said he couldn’t explain that phenomenon but said it might have something to do with the all-volunteer military force and advanced technology that now permits the United States to accomplish some military missions with far fewer personnel.

But Obama did say that even as “we turn a page” away from Iraq, and Afghanistan by the end of 2014, “let us never forget that the nation is still at war.”

He said that some troops and military families “mention to me their concern about whether the country fully appreciates” them.

Obama’s Memorial Day appearance at the venerable Arlington burial grounds came four days after he declared in a major national security address that the U.S. has taken down the al-Qaida terrorist organization, particularly in the aftermath of the killing of leader Osama bin Laden, although terrorist threats remain and the country cannot afford to let its vigilance slide.

Obama spoke on a sun-splashed morning at the amphitheater of Arlington National Cemetery after he placed a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns. That was preceded by a playingof the National Anthem and followed by the placing of “Taps.”

In his speech, he said that Arlington “has always been home to men and women who are willing to give their all … to preserve and protect the land that we love.”

He praised the selflessness that “beats in the hearts” of America’s uniformed military troops.

Keeping with a tradition he established earlier in his presidency, Obama stopped at Section 60 before departing and walked among the graves of the war dead from Iraq and Afghanistan.