As the Huffington Post's Pulitzer Prize-winning Beyond the Battlefield series has made starkly clear, today's veterans are returning home from Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom with greater and more complicated needs than ever before. The need for a continuum of coordinated, integrated services for veterans and their families is at an all-time high. This issue affects no small number of families. In 2010, there were more than 20 million veterans in the United States, and that number is increasing daily. Too many of these service members are finding it difficult to secure good jobs and support their families and communities.
Here's the alarming truth: Nearly one in three Americans who have fought to defend our freedoms cannot find a job after their service is complete. This fact is unacceptable. Regardless of political affiliation, all Americans can agree that the men and women who serve our country deserve every chance to succeed once they return home.
At Goodwill®, we have made it a top priority to empower veterans with all the tools they need to find employment, succeed in the workplace and support their families. In 2011, Goodwill hired more than 1,000 veterans and military family members and helped more than 44,000 people train for the workforce through the Joining Forces Initiative -- an effort spearheaded by First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden. Goodwill has also joined with partners around the country in the Got Your 6 campaign, one of the first examples of a nationally focused collective impact campaign led by the entertainment industry and national nonprofits.
Building on these initiatives, Goodwill recently launched Operation: GoodJobs. Through this program, three Goodwill agencies in communities with large populations of veteran families -- Austin and Houston, Tex., and Tacoma, Wash. -- will partner with the Walmart Foundation to help give returning veterans the skills and opportunities they need for successful integration into the civilian workforce. The program assists veterans and their families with job training and placement, but also plans for each participant's continued success by designing individualized, holistic plans that encompass the needs of entire families and helps ensure long-term financial stability.
Operation: GoodJobs is not a one-size-fits-all program. It offers classes on topics from searching for a job to removing the military jargon from résumés that some employers may not understand. The program also offers assistance that helps military families in their search for employment, such as connecting them with child care and family counseling. Also offered are training courses in budgeting, tax preparation and personal financial management. In addition, the program offers counseling on first-time homeownership, credit and debt management, asset building and foreclosure prevention.
Goodwill targeted the geographic locations of Austin, Houston and Tacoma based on the needs in those states. As a state, Texas ranks third in veteran representation, and Central Texas has one of the densest military populations in the country. According to the America's Promise Alliance, Texas ranks second among the states for active duty troops residency and second among the states for Guard and Reserve troops. Texas is home to more children of military service members than any other state.
Through Operation: GoodJobs, the Houston Goodwill plans to serve veterans in four counties where the organization operates existing job help centers. In these counties, 104,511 veteran residents have been identified, 31,709 of whom are between the ages of 17 and 44. In Austin, Goodwill will provide a broad array of services, such as job readiness training and case management services -- including services to assist with housing, transportation, mental health, and other basic needs -- as well as job training in collaboration with Austin Community College and job placement, job retention and financial literacy.
And, the Tacoma Goodwill, which is in close proximity to Joint Base Lewis-McChord, will serve a large number of veterans in the area. The Tacoma Goodwill will hold weekly meetings on Joint Base Lewis-McChord to meet with military members who will soon exit service. The Goodwill will also conduct extensive outreach to military members in the Veterans Administration buildings and service centers to get the word out about the program.
At Goodwill, we believe that every person deserves the chance to learn economic self-sufficiency through the power of work. No one deserves this chance more than the men and women who have bravely served our country. They all deserve the chance to succeed economically and support their families beyond the battlefield.
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