By Dave Sutor email@example.com
Veterans, like many citizens, can benefit from receiving common job search assistance or information about educational opportunities.
But they also face specialized challenges, such as service-based medical needs and – unfortunately at times – legal problems connected to post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury.
So, for 13 years, Veteran Community Initiatives has held a Returning Veteran Issues Symposium to help veterans and providers learn about available services.
This year’s event, held Wednesday at the Hiram G. Andrews Center, included six presentations: veterans court, Veterans Administration programs, veteran employment, human engineering research, caregiver services and vetting of veterans groups.
“Knowledge is power,” VCI board member Tom Haberkorn said. “The more people know about what is out there for them, the more it gives them the ability to get the services that they have earned and deserve.”
Dominick Yezzo, chairman of the Vietnam Veterans of America’s Veterans Incarcerated and in the Justice System organization, who, along with Cambria County Judge Timothy Creany, put on a presentation about veterans court, provided an overall message about what family members, friends, employers and others close to a returning veteran should know.
“I want you to support the veteran,” Yezzo said. “I want you to understand that the veteran may be unable to speak about what the matter is. I want you to know that young people often don’t know what they don’t know. And so most veterans don’t make sense out of their experience until they approach middle age.
“The things that they carry are sometimes moral damage, which is awful. I want you to be aware every time you look at a soldier who is returning, every time you look at someone – him or her – who has served in harm’s way, appreciate that this person has a deeper well of pain and experience than most of us understand.”
Debi Balog, Johnstown Area Regional Industries director of workforce development, and Jeff Dick, site administrator at the PA CareerLink center for Cambria and Somerset counties, provided information about employment and entrepreneurship opportunities for veterans.
“We really want to just reach out to the veterans and let them know that we’re here to help them find employment,” Dick said. “We have staff that works solely with veterans. We have a veterans representative that works with employers. He takes resumes of veterans. He takes them out to the employers, and all he does is market veterans.
“I’m a previous veteran myself, so I know how great it is to get somebody that is a veteran. They’re willing to work. They do whatever it takes to get the job done.”
Balog said that the symposium has provided benefits to many veterans throughout its history.
“What we’ve seen over the years is that more veterans are calling us and wanting to access the services,” Balog said. “So I think the word is getting out about all the different services that are available to them that they may not have known about or they were concerned about accessing them. I think they are more comfortable with accessing them. And more individuals are starting to access them. I think that’s what this is helping to do.”