Our Veterans Need More Than a Day; They Need a Career
By Thomas A. Kennedy
America is home to 21.2 million veterans – men and women who were willing to risk their lives for our country.
Unfortunately, many of these veterans face a daunting personal battle here at home: finding work. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, more than 700,000 U.S. veterans are currently unemployed. This simply isn’t acceptable. Our veterans have earned the opportunity to earn a living and take part in the very society they fought to defend.
The most effective way to help them succeed in post-military life is through targeted efforts to extend educational opportunity.
Since the 2008 financial crisis, competition for jobs has become fierce. Positions that once required a high school degree or less are being filled by college-educated applicants. This development presents a particular challenge for former soldiers, airmen and sailors, many of whom enlisted without much education or civilian experience.
Moreover, unemployed vets who find work typically take 43 weeks to land a job.
Joblessness is stressful for all who have experienced it. However, many veterans face additional obstacles. At least 3 million were wounded in battle and still suffer from some form of disability. Among those who served in Iraq or Afghanistan, about 20 percent are living with post-traumatic stress disorder or major depression, and 1 in 3 cope with a serious psychological trauma.
All these stats are troubling – and illustrate why Americans must commit to making sure veterans have the tools they need to build successful post-military lives.
The best place to start is by broadening educational opportunity for our veterans. Indeed, education is often the determining factor in whether or not a veteran is able to thrive after returning to civilian life.
One initiative has already made important progress in this respect. At the beginning of this academic year, 250 community colleges and universities committed to implementing best practices established by the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Education and more than 100 educational experts. These “8 Keys to Success” help connect veterans with academic, career and financial help, and surround them with a community of students and fellow veterans who can encourage them as they further their education.
For similar efforts to grow in number and effectiveness, more Americans need to get involved with private initiatives like Student Veterans of America and the Wounded Warrior Project. These two groups enable soldiers to draw on the skills they have already developed through military service and apply them to their post-military careers.
We should always welcome opportunities to show our appreciation for those veterans who risked everything for our safety and security. But these brave men and women need more than our appreciation; they need our help. And, more specifically, they need more opportunities to arm themselves with the skills to create a prosperous, fulfilling life.
Thomas A. Kennedy, Ph.D., is the executive vice president and chief operating officer at Raytheon. He served in the U.S. Air Force from 1977-1983, attaining the rank of captain.
Great Places in New Jersey to Visit in 2014
By Michele S. Byers
What makes a place great?
The American Planning Association thinks great places are where people want to be … to live, work, play and visit. Great places are fun, they’re public and accessible and they’re culturally and historically interesting.
You shouldn’t be surprised to hear that our state has lots of great places!
Here are a few choices of the American Planning Association and its New Jersey chapter, which put out annual lists:
Newark’s Branch Brook Park: It’s the crown jewel of the Essex County park system, serving as a backyard and playground for thousands of urban residents in surrounding neighborhoods. It’s also a destination for more than 100,000 visitors each spring, who come to admire the nation’s largest collection of blossoming cherry trees. (Sorry, Washington, D.C. – you’re not No. 1!)
Camden County’s 346-acreCooper River Park: This urban park is a hub of activity, with a boathouse and boat launch, golf academy, miniature golf course, cross-country running course, playground, pavilions, dog park, softball fields, bike paths, picnic areas, sculpture garden and memorial grove.
The South Hoboken waterfront: The Hudson River Waterfront Walkway, with its dazzling views of the Manhattan skyline, connects several parks and is a great place for a stroll. And, it’s only a short walk from the waterfront to another “great place,” historic Washington Street, appreciated for its quaint storefronts and variety of shops and restaurants.
Haddon Avenue, Collingswood: This main drag in small-town Collingswood, a suburb of Camden, is listed as one of America’s great streets. The American Planning Association describes it as “a mixture of small town friendliness and larger city diversity.” And it’s earned smart-growth accolades with a new residential-commercial development, known as the LumberYard, strategically located next to public transportation.
The New Jersey chapter of the American Planning Association places special emphasis on downtown areas, especially those in older communities that frequently struggle to compete with automobile-dependent shopping malls. Folks who frequent downtowns know how exciting and vibrant they can be, with lots more variety than the usual mall chain stores and restaurants.
This year, the downtown areas of Freehold, Westfield and Montclair were added to the New Jersey chapter’s list, which already included Bordentown, the historic Perth Amboy waterfront, Madison, Grove Street Plaza in Jersey City, Broad Street in Hopewell and Pier Village in Long Branch.
Why not try a shopping expedition to one of these great downtowns?
What do you think? Do you know of a great place, street or park? The American Planning Association and its New Jersey Chapter are looking for recommendations for 2014 and want to hear from you!
To suggest a “Great Place in America,” visit the American Planning Association’s website at www.planning.org/greatplaces/suggestion/suggestiondetails.htm.
To help the state chapter identify great places, go to njplanning.org/great-places-in-nj/great-places-in-new-jersey-easy-suggestion.
And to learn more about preserving land and natural resources in New Jersey, visit the New Jersey Conservation Foundation website at www.njconservation.org or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Michele S. Byers is the executive director of the New Jersey Conservation Foundation.
Two River Moment
This is what a record snowstorm looked like in 1947 on East Front Street, Red Bank. On the left is Kislin’s Sporting Goods, a store where many Two River area residents bought their cold weather gear. Kislin’s, which was located in Red Bank for more than 100 years, closed in 2005.