Remembering Heroes

The official start of summer. School’s out. We head to the beach and other outdoor activities. Local bars along waterfronts celebrate, some with special drinks (think Pina Coladas, Margaritas and Mai Tais) to kick off the summer season. However, Memorial Day is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation's service. It was originally called Decoration Day – there is evidence that organized women's groups in the South were decorating graves before the end of the Civil War. It was first observed on May 30, 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery.

Inspired by a poem “In Flanders Fields” (John McCrea, 1915) Moina Michael replied with her own poem about Poppy red signifying the blood of heroes. She then conceived of an idea to wear red poppies on Memorial Day in honor of those who died serving the nation during war. (“That blood of heroes never dies.”) She was the first to wear one, and sold poppies to her friends and co-workers with the money going to benefit servicemen in need. I still remember “Decoration Day” – the parades and veterans groups selling those paper red poppies and people wearing them with pride.

Traditional observances of Memorial Day have diminished over the years, but there are still some notable exceptions, such groups as placing small American Flags at gravestones at National Cemeteries and the Rolling Thunder annual motorcycle rally held in Washington DC each Memorial Day weekend. Started in 1988 with 2,500 participants, it now draws 900,000 participants and spectators – a tribute to American war heroes and a call for the government’s recognition and protection of Prisoners of War (POWs) and those Missing in Action (MIAs).

While it is important to recognize that Memorial Day should be a day for observing and honoring fallen service members, it is also a good time to recognize what we can do for those veterans who have returned and are struggling, especially economically. There is a heightened awareness and concerted efforts taking place on helping our returning veterans find jobs. Companies who do business with the federal government are now required to engage in outreach efforts (affirmative action) to attract and hire veterans and establish a hiring benchmark for doing so. What are some of the things that companies can do to hire veterans?
Here are some suggestions from the Department of Labor:

· Work with the Local Veterans’ Employment Representative in the local employment service office (i.e., the One-Stop) nearest the contractor’s establishment

· Work with the Department of Veterans Affairs Regional Office nearest the contractor’s establishment

· Work with the veterans’ counselors and coordinators (“Vet-Reps”) on college campuses and outreach to protected veterans at educational institutions

· Work with the service officers of the national veterans’ groups active in the area of the contractor’s establishment

· Work with the veterans’ groups and veterans’ service centers near the contractor’s establishment

· Work with the Department of Defense Transition Assistance Program (TAP)

· Work with any organization listed in the Employer Resources section of the National Resource Directory (http://www.nationalresourcedirectory.gov/)

· Consult the National Resource Director’s Veterans Job Bank

· Consider taking the following actions, as appropriate, to provide meaningful employment opportunities to protected veterans

a. Formal briefing sessions held on company premises with representatives from recruiting sources
b. Tours
c. Explanations of current and future job openings
d. Position descriptions
e. Worker specifications
f. Explanations of the selection process

· Participate in work-study programs with the Department of Veterans Affairs

· Include protected veterans in career days, youth motivation days, and related community activities

Even if your company is not a government contractor, these are all good efforts to help our returning veterans get re-established. As our guest Neal Henderson wrote last September 24, “Honor Veterans With Jobs!”


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