My father served in the Second World War. He was on the ground in northern Africa and Italy. He lived during a time when the threat of war engulfed every major nation and when the call to serve weighed heavily on the mind of every American. Millions were drafted into our armed forces, joining men and women who had volunteered knowing that they could make the difference between freedom and tyranny for generations of Americans to come. My father and the people around him served with one thing in mind – one thing that outweighed the fear they felt, the way their lives were upended, and their homesickness: love of country.
I saw firsthand how my father’s service shaped his life, my mother’s life and my own. But his example is just one – millions served before him and millions have served since. Our nation’s veterans represent the very best values of our country: courage, sacrifice, hard work and a willingness to put others first by fighting to protect them. Veterans deserve to know how much we respect them, and on Veterans Day, we have a special opportunity to remind them.
Often what veterans need most when they return to civilian life is the dignity of a job to start anew and provide for their families. Unfortunately, there are still barriers regarding military certifications transferring to private sector jobs, the up-front costs associated with starting small businesses, or the need to play catch-up in educational pursuits put on hold during their years of service. These can all make the transition to civilian life difficult.
We should be recognizing the unique skills and corresponding certifications our veterans possess, not requiring them to jump through unnecessary hoops or waste time re-learning skills they already have. I welcome news that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recently provided Overland Park’s Johnson County Community College with a grant to support training veterans and their families for jobs as commercial bus and truck drivers. Those who have served our nation transporting people or critical military assets certainly have the skills and background to be some of the safest bus and truck drivers on the road.
Veterans exude the kind of strong work ethic that makes America strong and the greatest nation in the world. That’s why I introduced the Veterans Entrepreneurial Transition Act (VET Act, S.1862) this Congress to give veterans the choice and opportunity to pursue resources through the Small Business Association and utilize their G.I. bill benefits in order to start their own businesses.
Some of the best local businesses across our state are owned and operated by veterans. In Overland Park, Major Emma Toops, who retired from the U.S. Army in 2013, and her husband started Toops Consulting, a firm working to bridge the gap between veteran and civilian culture. Joe Boeckner of Hays served in the U.S. Army National Guard and started a screen-printing and apparel business, Hays Tees, and firearm retailer and online dealer, Joe Bob Outfitters. And in Junction City, Jim Fawcett, an Army vet who served in Vietnam, owns Junction City Abstract and Title and The Pampered Pet, a pet goods store specializing in animal rescue. The success these servicemembers and many other Kansas veterans have creating jobs, growing the economy and providing services to communities across our state reminds us of the contributions our veterans can make when we support and empower them.
We can do even more than remembering and thanking our veterans on Nov. 11. We must do everything we can to support them and their families and demonstrate our gratitude through action. I will continue working to enable veterans to find meaningful work after separation from service. Their sacrifices have made it possible for us to grow up in a country where freedom and opportunity are woven into the very fiber of our nation. This Veterans Day, we can show our love of country not only through sharing our thanks with the veterans we know, but also by offering veterans jobs and career opportunities, mentoring them during their transition from service and supporting veteran-owned and operated businesses.