Des Plaines Chamber Veterans Employment Program Leaders Honored by American Legion – IL

In recognition of their tireless efforts to offer employment support services to Veterans and spouses of active-duty military, Andrea Biwer, executive director of the Des Plaines Chamber of Commerce & Industry, and Marne Deithorn, vice president of human resources of Rivers Casino, have earned the Employer of Veterans Award bestowed by the American Legion Department of Illinois, as chosen by the Illinois Department of Employment Security Commission.

Biwer, who is the mother of a proud member of the active-duty military, conceived the Veteran’s Back-to-Work Boot Camp in 2017. Deithorn was the first member of the business community to take a significant role in the program’s development, rollout, and continued operation. The free program has helped over 150 Veterans secure not just jobs, but career positions.

“Veterans have proven their dedication to our country, and they’ve learned valuable skills in the process,” says Biwer. “The Veteran’s Boot Camp is our proof to them that their dedication is appreciated. We are committed to helping as many people as we can find the work situation that properly recognizes their value.”

Initially open to all Veterans to apply to participate in, and now expanded to include spouses of active-duty military, the boot camp is a 10-week program that educates transitioning job seekers on how to secure and thrive in new civilian career positions. Candidates learn resume composition skills, interview skills, and networking techniques from successful executives and other business specialists.

In addition to mentoring and hands-on classroom education, those selected for the Back-to-Work Boot Camp also receive the tools necessary to thrive in their new careers including a new laptop and all applicable software. The total reward package is worth over $10,000 per participant.

“I was in the military. I know firsthand the difficulties there can be transitioning to civilian work, but I’m proof that there a path available to success,” says Deithorn, the now vice president of one of Chicagoland’s most popular casinos. “Now it’s our chance to help those Veterans and active-duty military spouses facing struggles to more easily navigate the employment waters with confidence.” 

The application process has just closed on the 2023 class of Back-to-Work Boot Camp participants. Work is now underway by the program administrators to consider the needs, challenges, and talents of each applicant and their likelihood of benefiting from the program. The 20-person class of 2023 is expected to be announced in late September.

“There are a lot of Veterans and military-affiliated spouses who need help moving into the workforce, so we get an impressive number of very qualified applicants for the Back-to-Work Boot Camp every year,” says Biwer. “We keep every applicant’s information on file and if something arises that could be their path to success, we will reach out.”

That’s the commitment that earned Biwer and Deithorn the Employer of Veterans Award. Their goal from the start has been “No Veteran Left Behind.”

Biwer and Deithorn were officially recognized for their dedication and service to Veterans at a ceremony during The American Legion Department of Illinois’s 104th Annual State Convention in Springfield.

“We are honored by this recognition, but our real honor is in connecting the Veterans and active-duty spouses with the business community,” says Biwer.

In connection with the Boot Camp, in early November, the Des Plaines Chamber of Commerce & Industry and the corporate and foundation sponsors of the Veterans Back-to-Work Boot Camp will host a career fair at the Des Plaines Library. The fair will be open to all job seekers regardless of military background.

Those applicants who were not ultimately selected for the 2023 Boot Camp class are also personally invited to the November job fair. At the event, they have access to potential employers who are actively seeking talent and are receptive to candidates with military backgrounds. They can also receive feedback on how to strengthen their Boot Camp application should they wish to apply for the program next year.

For the most up-to-date details on the Veterans Back-to-Work Boot Camp visit the Des Plaines Chamber of Commerce & Industry’s website at

Peace. Love. Trust.

Rikki Lee Travolta


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