04/09/2014 02:21 pm ET Updated Jun 09, 2014

Placing a Value on Veterans' Skills

Not long ago, my nephew returned home from his second deployment to Afghanistan. Considering his choices of whether to stay in the military or not, he struggled with many of the same questions millions of service members and veterans struggle with every day: What jobs are out there for veterans? Will employers value the skills he learned in the military?

As an uncle, I of course would want to help him should he choose to leave military service and as an American, grateful for my freedom, I want to help all veterans. Over the years, I've been privileged to meet tens of thousands of service members and veterans by visiting military bases and military hospitals all over the world and through my work with the Lt. Dan Band and the Gary Sinise Foundation. What I hear over and over again is concern about what being a veteran will mean to employers in the civilian world.

What is the value of a veteran? I have seen firsthand the teamwork, grace under pressure, ingenuity, and dedication veterans bring to companies and college campuses. Many, like my nephew and so many of his fellow service members, also have very real skills in healthcare, logistics, management, and manufacturing that make veterans invaluable as students and employees. Veterans also bring a measurable value to the economy. After World War II, every dollar spent on veterans' education through the first GI Bill produced a $7 return on that investment.

I want every American to know the value of a veteran and I want every veteran to seize the opportunities available to them.

As the troops come home and the nation talks about how to support the growing number of veterans, it is critical we turn those words into action. A lot of people talk about the importance of hiring veterans and valuing their skills, but we need to share information and support programs that are doing just that. The manufacturing industry has been a leader in supporting the veteran community and that is why I joined them in launching and supporting Get Skills to Work.

Since 2012, I have been working with some of the biggest companies in America like GE, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and Alcoa to help veterans get an education in technical skills and the trades and get hired into manufacturing jobs. We're taking incredible young men and women with superior basic skills and making them assets to manufacturing companies and the local communities that depend on them.

I believe that by working together we can make a real impact in the lives of veterans and their families. Twenty years ago I played a veteran in Forrest Gump and over the years I have been privileged to meet and support many real life Lt. Dans, active duty military, and veterans. They continue to inspire me to encourage our nation to do everything it can to honor and support this generation of veterans.

We owe it to our veterans to make every opportunity for success available to them. They're invaluable assets to our communities and our country. Spreading the word and raising awareness is critical.

To learn more about what Get Skills to Work is doing for veterans and the manufacturing sector, join me for a Google Hangout on April 21, 2014, at 2PM: and visit