Reaching out to returning veterans

A year ago I wrote on the subject of honoring veterans' employment rights and I reflected on the combat deaths of Cpl. Paul Miller, Sgt. Jason Calo, Sgt. Dillion Fox and Sgt. Matthew West, all northern Michigan soldiers killed in our Iraq and Afghanistan wars. This last month we lost Air Force Sgt. Matthew Schwartz, a Traverse City Central High School graduate and a veteran of six war deployments. These soldiers were highly dedicated and trained and are an unquantifiable loss to our communities. I quoted then and quote now, "Who kept the faith and fought the fight; the glory theirs, the duty ours." As a community we need keep these young men in our hearts and memories. One way to honor them is to address the needs of our returning soldiers and offer them employment opportunities.

With our President and our Defense Department's announcement for a reduction in military manpower, it's now a golden opportunity to hire and employ those leaving the military. Our veterans, specifically the junior officers, essentially possess the equivalent of a managerial MBA and have extensive field experience to supplant their training.

Over a number of years, I have had the opportunity to interact with the military peers and friends of my son and daughter-in-law. As company commanders and executive officers in their 20s and early 30s, they've routinely managed 130 people or more; they've understood and honored diversity and the value of team work. To put this in real context, let me introduce a few by name who have recently left the military: Javier Castro is now employed by P & H Mining Equipment as a product manager, splitting his time between Wisconsin and Chile; Mike Gorham was hired by Lynn Swann as the Chief of Operations for the Pittsburgh Power, a new arena football team; Rob Lentz left to work as an engagement consultant with the global consulting firm of McKinsey & Co. and Micah Heavener was recruited by Citi and now serves as a director and its Chief Administrative Officer for global operations and technology. Again, our veterans are well-trained, disciplined and hard workers!

As business owners and employers, we need the resources to reach out to returning veterans. Fortunately, Governor Rick Snyder recently created a program to connect job seekers and employers. The initiative is called "Pure Michigan Talent Connect" and can be found at www.mitalent.org. The developers of this site were cognizant of our veterans and created a specific tab for them. The website could be tweaked some in order to allow individuals to post their resumes and skill sets for employers to review; however, it's a good resource and I urge employers to consider its use.

Additional employment outlets are needed for returning veterans. Presently, the website for the Michigan Chamber of Commerce returns "no results" when "veteran" is typed into its search box. This is also true of the website for the Traverse City Chamber. But most disturbing is the complete failure of the State of Michigan's Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, a governmental department created for veteran issues, to affirmatively address veteran employment opportunities. Changes need to be made!

A portion of the mission statement from the Michigan Talent's page directed at veterans states: "America's veterans have historically given a blank check to the American people and the U.S. Government for an amount up to and including their lives. For the blank check given, while within the borders of Michigan, the Veterans Services Division will make sure any check cashed for services owed will not bounce." Our northern Michigan employers should do the same. I suggest businesses will not be disappointed in their decision to hire a veteran.

Michael Dettmer is a Traverse City attorney.

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