Last weekend, Orange County Sheriff John Mina, participated in a extreme rappelling fundraiser to raise money for the United Way and their push to improve veterans services. Mina, a veteran himself, knows exactly what our soldiers experience when they come home to start their lives outside of the military (story HERE).
A big component of that is military to civilian transition services.
Basically, it’s preparing that soldier for life when he returns home after fulfilling his service obligations. This has to do with everything from getting their health care benefits, to securing opportunities for higher education, and finding work.
It’s an area that military has never been good at.
Life for our soldiers when they’re serving consists of alpha-numeric codes, and acronyms. It’s almost another language. It’s up to the military to instruct our soldiers how to explain to civilian employers how they qualify for positions in their company.
For me, I was a Human Resources Specialist or a 42A in the Army. That’s not a tough one and I was fortunate enough to find opportunities.
But for an 11B, Infantry, or many other of the combat arms positions, which are often the most dangerous jobs in our military, it’s much more difficult.
Yes, they protect our freedom with their lives and we don’t even tell them how to explain their work when they get back home so they can provide for their families.
Private sector employers often don’t have a complete picture of the true potential these patriots have.
Then there is the pay. In the military, soldiers don’t make a lot of money but they’re still given allowances for housing and food to ensure their families are taken care of. They also have access to health care while serving.
Not the case in Orlando. Especially, if the only work a vet can find falls on the lower end of the pay scale here in Central Florida where we have some of the lowest wages in the country. It’s not uncommon for soldiers to return to the military or join the National Guard to make those ends meet because we let them down out here.
Often times additional education or training is required. This means our vets have to dig into their savings again. They’ve already had to secure housing in Orlando (where there is no affordable housing, a vehicle, and other expenses they need to start their post military lives.
It doesn’t stop at the bank account. When they leave the military, they can feel alone without the brothers and sisters in their units. This can lead to heavy drinking and many other problems including suicide where we continue to see lives lost.
Still many elected leaders don’t understand that ineffective transition services is at the root of problems facing vets.
We must ensure that we have a better understanding of what our vets need so that the hardworking organizations that host these fundraiser are seeing their dollars go the furthest to help our veterans when they come home.
Speaking of that fundraiser, Heart of United Way reportedly raised about $100,000. Thank you to them and to Sheriff Mina for their much needed help.