Celebrate Veterans and Local Heroes with WGN News

by Rikki Lee Travolta

Some of our greatest heroes are the U.S. Veterans who have served our country in times of war, in times of peace, and in times of trying to keep the peace.

Veterans Day is an annual Federal holiday each November that honors military Veterans of the U.S. armed forces.

According to the Veterans Association, as of September 2023, there are 17.9 million U.S. Veterans. This represents 6.8% of the population over the age of adulthood. Yet, according to statistic.com, as of 2021 there are over 250,000 veterans living people the poverty level.

One area that plagues some Veterans in adjusting to civilian life is in finding gainful employment. These are noble souls who have sacrificed and served for the betterment of all of us. I think the chance to excel in a career and not just toil in a job is the least we can offer these heroes.

You see there’s a difference between working a job and pursuing a career. A career has the promise of growth and expanded prosperity. The Des Plaines Chamber of Commerce & Industry has decided to do something to ensure that Veterans have the chance for this kind of meaningful employment.

Those who serve in the military receive world-class training to be the best they can be. By excelling in their military service, they show their capabilities and potential. It only makes sense that they would have the talent to also excel in civilian work – they just need the chance.

Since 2017, under the leadership of executive director Andrea Biwer, the Des Plaines Chamber of Commerce & Industry has been serving as a bridge to help Veterans achieve their civilian employment potential. Each year, the Veterans Back-to-Work Boot Camp offers a 10-week career training platform that prepares Veterans and spouses of active-duty military with the skills they need to identify career opportunities, dominate the application process, and translate job interviews into job offers.

The 2023 class of the Veterans Back-to-Work Boot Camp graduated from their 10-week intensive training program this week. It’s an event I had the honor of being involved in – hearing the passionate and moving stories of these incredible individuals.

In anticipation of Veterans Day this weekend, Patrick Elwood and WGN captured the heartbeat of the Des Plaines Chamber’s Veterans’ employment program to share with viewers. The segment will air Friday, November 10 during the Noon and 5 PM WGN News broadcasts.

It is a powerful story about the potential our Veterans have when given the chance to shine in civilian careers. They sacrificed for us, now we owe it to them.

I hope you will join me in tuning in to WGN to cheer with pride as the graduates of the Veterans Back-to-Work Boot Camp strut their stuff. I could not be prouder of this amazing group of talent and the volunteers who make the program possible.

It’s also not too early to start thinking about applying for the 2024 Veterans Back-to-Work Boot Camp. Look for future information at www.dpchamber.com.

Thanks to efforts of organizations like the Des Plaines Chamber of Commerce & Industry and the sponsorship partners of the Veterans Back-to-Work Boot Camp, the latest figures from the U.S. Department of Labor show that under the Biden administration Veteran unemployment has fallen to less than 2.8% – down from 4.4% in 2021.

Let’s keep it up! Let’s make sure all Veterans are always respected, treasured, and given the chance to succeed!

Peace. Love. Trust.

Rikki Lee Travolta

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