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Honoring our veterans with support and jobs at home | Senator Maria Cantwell
By Senator Maria Cantwell
President John F. Kennedy once said of veterans: “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”
Decades later, those words still ring true. As Americans, we show our highest appreciation for our liberty and freedom by honoring those who fight to defend it. That means providing our troops the resources they need in battle, and taking care of them when they return home.
As we honor Veterans Day, all Americans give thanks to the troops who serve our country. We remember those who have lost their lives defending America, we pray for the safety of those serving overseas, and we honor those veterans who returned home to serve our communities.
And, with thousands of troops returning home to tough economic times, we commit to providing job opportunities for veterans transitioning to civilian life.
Just last week I had the privilege of participating in the ceremony to honor 33 World War II Japanese American veterans from Washington state – including Stanley S. Segawa of Silverdale – with the highest civilian award in the United States. Hearing their stories, of fighting for America while America interned their families at home, I was reminded of what it means to sacrifice for a cause greater than yourself – a spirit that embodies true American heroes. We owe it to all those who serve to stand up for them.
At all times – even in tough budgetary straits – we need to ensure that those who serve our country get the benefits they deserve. This means supporting programs to improve the health, well-being and readiness of our service members and their families, from ensuring they have the right equipment and armor on the frontline to guaranteeing availability of treatment for traumatic brain injury or post-traumatic stress disorder.
Recently I had the privilege of touring the USS John Stennis, currently homeported at Naval Base Kitsap, and meeting members of its wonderful 3,200 member crew. I was also proud to visit the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and witness firsthand its successful apprenticeship program, which provides job-placement training for more than 200 artisans and technicians per year. As the largest naval organization in Navy Region Northwest, Naval Base Kitsap is home to over 35,000 people including military personnel and retirees, civilian employees, and families. Naval Base Kitsap is an integral part of our national defense and we are proud of the service of the men and women stationed there.
In Congress, I have always fought to provide our brave men and women in uniform with the recognition and benefits they have earned and deserve. We must support continuing education opportunities, improving living and working conditions on base or helping homeless veterans find affordable housing and employment, and providing tax relief to military families. And especially in these trying times, standing up for those who serve our country means supporting workforce training initiatives that help ready veterans for civilian jobs. One such golden opportunity for veteran employment is in our state’s growing aviation industry. Boeing is gearing up to build the next fleet of tankers for the U.S. Air Force, as well as the 747, the 787 Dreamliner, and more. The tanker win alone means thousands more jobs for Washingtonians. And over the next decade, some 21,000 new aerospace workers are needed in our state; nationwide, 32,000 workers are needed this year alone. Veterans in Kitsap County and across our state can help meet this demand for skilled aerospace workers and help close a critical job skills gap in our state. From their time in the military, many veterans have valuable experiences and unique skills that are needed in aviation and can help our state’s industry remain competitive. As Chair of the Senate’s Aviation Subcommittee, I am working to standardize the process for crediting military aerospace experience towards FAA certifications and other training certificates, to help get veterans through aerospace training faster and into aerospace employment sooner.
Recently I joined Spokane Community College in announcing a new veterans outreach program to connect veterans with these job opportunities. The program, expected to be up and running by spring of 2012, will eventually be implemented statewide at all 34 community and technical colleges to help connect veterans with aerospace jobs. This includes Olympic College in Bremerton and Clover Park Technical College in Lakewood. We are at a pivotal point for the competitiveness of America’s aerospace industry – an industry that is rapidly growing in the Puget Sound and one that veterans in Kitsap County can help lead into the 21st century.
As our veterans face an unprecedented rate of unemployment, we must continue our work expanding opportunities for our nation’s veterans to succeed in the civilian workforce. Not just today, but every day, we must show our profound gratitude for those who have made, and selflessly fought, to preserve this great nation. On behalf of the state of Washington, we thank you and your loved ones for your service and sacrifices.