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Veterans’ Day 2014: Turning Impulse into Action

As Veterans’ Day approaches, let’s take a moment to celebrate the many ways that Vermont organizations honor and support the 50,000 veterans living in Vermont — and the ways that you can support their efforts, too.

We know that many veterans return from the service with skills that don’t easily transfer to civilian life, which is part of why veterans who have served since 2001 faced a higher unemployment rate last year than non-veterans. Thousands of newly-discharged servicemen and servicewomen are returning home and looking to college as their pathway to a promising career.

That’s why college access and success for veterans is a focus of our grantmaking.

Since 2011, the McClure Foundation has had the privilege of funding centralized services for veteran students at the Community College of Vermont’s (CCV) 12 campuses. We’re seeing encouraging results: CCV has become the largest provider of college education to vets in the state and enrollment of military-connected students there has increased 250% in the past three years. Steadfast in our belief that veterans themselves often offer the most credible, accessible, and individualized services for their fellow vets, we  and two other funders at the Community Foundation  underwrite two statewide veterans resource coordinators for CCV.  These coordinators provide one-on-one support for veterans, have developed Combat-to-Classroom sensitivity training for CCV staff, and launched a writing workshop to help veterans reflect on and tell their unique stories.

CCV is not alone in serving veterans: there are over 1,000 people in Vermont working in support of vets and their families and many are in need of volunteers. The White River Junction VA Medical Center, for example, needs drivers, escorts, clerks, and craft-room support.  State shelters for the homeless and organizations like the Vermont Veteran’ Space in Northfield collect bedding, underwear, toiletries, work boots, magazines, stationery, and gift cards for veterans. And we each can remember those veterans who die alone by donating a flag, cleaning an abandoned gravestone, or learning more about burials for these forgotten servicemen and servicewomen.

In the weeks around this Veterans’ Day we hope that you have the honor of shaking the hands of at least one vet.  And if you find yourself in the position to help preserve the story of a vet, we urge you to do so (see “Vt Vet Remembers WWII” and WWII POW Recalls Wartime Experiences as examples).  It is in the telling of these stories that healing takes place — and it is through them that we civilians can understand and memorialize the sacrifices faced by so many of those who served on our behalf.

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