03/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

On Veterans Day and Every Day, Goodwill Puts Vets to Work

A salute to the tens of thousands of our nation's veterans. Thank you for your service.

Veterans Day is a particularly special day. It provides an opportunity for Americans to step back, reflect and thank all of the soldiers, air men, sailors, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen who have served and protected our country.

I often wonder if I would have served when I graduated from high school or after finishing college. I like to think I would have, but because I started to lose my vision in the third grade and was totally blind by the time I was a sophomore in college, I never had the opportunity to serve. I suppose I will never know what might have happened. I'd like to think I would have enlisted. My father was a Naval Aviator during World War II. He flew SB2c hell bombers, and I recall his years of service in the Navy were some of his fondest memories. The camaraderie, the patriotism and the opportunity to grow all stood out as benefits to him as a young man. I guess that experience seemed to be a key component, as his generation is often viewed as "The Greatest Generation."

As an adult, I've had the opportunity to at least serve those who have served during my work with National Industries for the Blind and Goodwill Industries International. I've been fortunate to provide services and lead efforts that provide products to our military and, probably most meaningful, I've had the opportunity to be a part of teams that have served veterans who have lost their eyesight, who have received traumatic brain injuries, and who have been put in harm's way, resulting in both physical and physiological disabilities. Serving these men and women is a part of what Goodwill Industries® does every day, whether it's for those who have served in Iraq, Afghanistan or Vietnam, or those who have served right here in our homeland but have always stood ready to give everything they've got for our country.

Thanks to all of the men and women who have served, but especially to those who have been served by Goodwill®, like Sam, who was wounded by a roadside bomb while he was stationed in Iraq. This injury, combined with his diagnosis of leukemia and need to provide for his seventh-grade daughter, gave him many challenges. It wasn't until he learned of Goodwill's opportunities for people facing challenges to employment that he was able to begin supporting himself and his family. Or Henry, a Gulf War veteran who was awarded the National Defense Service Medal, Kuwait Liberation Medal, Southwest Asia Service Medal with two Bronze Stars, Navy Unit Commendation, Army Service Ribbon, and the Sea Service Deployment Ribbon. Upon returning home, Brown battled health issues, depression and substance abuse. It wasn't until he enrolled in a Goodwill program that he was able to get back on the right track through a substance abuse program, a job skills program and other support services. Today, he is enrolled in Southern Wesleyan University and gives back by serving as a chef to vets who are homeless.

Goodwill plays a vital role in helping veterans learn the skills they need to find meaningful employment and find the support they need to access health care, tax assistance, housing or housing referrals, and other rehabilitation services. Goodwill fills a special need because it serves veterans who may feel shunned or misunderstood by other employment programs. From untreated mental illness and addiction to homelessness and chronic unemployment, the issues are complex, and Goodwill provides a holistic approach that addresses the needs of veterans' families as well.

This Veterans Day, remember to be thankful to the veterans you know for their bravery and service, and remind those veterans that there is always a place where they can find and keep good jobs, and fully participate in their communities.