By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 7, 2011 – Ensuring combat veterans who have sacrificed for their country have job opportunities when they return to civilian life is a national responsibility with roles for government and private sector alike, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said today in New York.
Speaking with CEOs and veterans at a roundtable discussion hosted by the Goldman Sachs Foundation in New York, the secretary emphasized the country's moral obligation to those who have served and sacrificed in uniform.
"These are men and women in uniform that have dedicated themselves to serving this country," he said. "They have been deployed time and time again. They have gone to the battle area time and time again."
Now that they have returned home, Panetta said it's up to the country to stand up to support them. "In the end, the best thing we can do to honor those that have served is to make sure that when they come back, they have some opportunity to be a part of our society and not just wind up on the unemployment rolls," he said.
Panetta shared his personal experiences of visiting the wounded and talking with other members of "the next greatest generation."
All, along with their families, are "committed to what this country is all about," the secretary said. "They put their lives on the line."
Panetta acknowledged it will be a challenge to provide those opportunities during a slow economy. "It's going to require a partnership between government, the private sector and the non-profit community to try to provide the jobs and opportunities that are there," he said. "I'm convinced it can happen."
The secretary recognized promising efforts already being made to develop jobs, including those President Barack Obama announced today. These, being instituted through executive orders, include tax credits for employers who hire unemployed post-9/11 veterans and wounded warriors, and new initiatives to help veterans connect with employers seeking to employ them.
"It's a responsibility that we all have," Panetta said, pledging whatever help he might be able to offer. "I want to encourage you to do whatever you can to try to help provide those jobs," he said. "We can't just talk about it. We have to do something about it."
The Goldman Sachs Foundation brought together executives during today's forum to discuss best practices for hiring veterans to make recommendations on how DOD can improve career transition, education and training
Sean P Eagan
Former Chairman American Cold War Veterans