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$1 Billion Proposal to Create Veterans Job Corps

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National Parks Director Jon Jarvis made the statement last week, "Let's prepare our parks for 1 million returning veterans and their families." Now, President Obama is proposing that we get them ready ourselves through a $1 billion proposal to put up to 20,000 veterans to work over the next five years in our country's great outdoors.

Later today, the president will be announcing this proposal through the development of the Veteran Job Corps. Obama is following up on his promises made during the State of the Union Address to help returning veterans find pathways to civilian employment.

Let's review the numbers one more time:

• $1 billion
• Five years
• Up to 20,000 jobs

Is anyone else as excited as I am? Thank you Mr. President!

We did not, at least of most of us did not, join the military to sit inside an office. Here's our chance to stay outside of a cubicle for a few more years working to rebuild visitor programs, habitat restoration, driving back invasive species, operating facilities, and no doubt smashing into the deferred maintenance of roads, recreation infrastructure, levees, and trails on your public lands.

We should take a minute and relish in the fact that the president, the Department of Interior, and the nation as a whole, are beginning to recognize the value of time in the wilderness and great outdoors to our veteran population.

It's just a proposal right now, but it's a proposal that if and when it becomes reality, should help put a huge number of veterans from the battlefield into nature. Its also a nod to the many, many dedicated Department of Interior employees, non-profits, state and community agencies, funders, sponsors, and others, who have been leading the way for several years working hard to prove the efficacy of time and work outdoors to help integrate our veteran population home from war.

A short list of those organizations that helped to give birth to this proposal (and dozens should be listed):

Veterans Green Corps (Veterans Green Jobs)
Southwest Conservation Corps
Veterans Conservation Corps (Washington State)

Additionally, efforts by the Sierra Club, whose funding reinvigorated Outward Bound's veteran expeditions program in 2006 and supported the National Military Families Operation Purple ® Family Retreats and Youth Camps played their part. America is taking notice and your leadership in boots, combat boots, hiking boots, or work boots is the leadership America needs.

America invested in us to make us the world's best fighting force. Let's make sure America's next investment bears great fruit. Let's use this as an opportunity to continue to leverage other programs developed on our behalf to get us back to work, including entrepreneurship training, veterans hiring tax credits, and the challenge to the private sector to hire or train 100,000 veterans and their spouses by 2013.

Let's challenge the outdoor industry, those who make the gear we wear outside, our boots, our socks, our chainsaws, our axes, our backpacks to pledge to hire a portion of those 100,000 veterans and spouses. Why not ensure they get the tax credits? Let's challenge the environmental movement, for profit and non-for profit, from those making solar panels and wind turbines, to those advocating on their behalf, to be part of the movement, to hire our veterans.

A new day seems to be dawning for veterans and military families. Let's make sure we're awake and ready to hit the trail.

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