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Conference supports vets

SGA eases post-war transition

Published: Sunday, February 9, 2014

Updated: Sunday, February 9, 2014 23:02

Stepping out of the line of duty and into civilian life is a transition that Operation Veteran Success hoped to make a little easier Friday and Saturday.

The conference was the first of its kind at Texas A&M and held by the Veteran Affairs branch of Student Government Association. The event featured guest speakers and a career fair.

Taylor Sessions, event coordinator and SGA vice president of student affairs, said given the cold weather the conference had a great turnout.

“We had close to 175 registered at the beginning,” Sessions said. “The weather really impacted us with the snow cancelling flights and snowing people in, so we only had 128 total show up for the first day. And then again with weather, we were down to about 40 today.”

The event was also open to veterans not affiliated with Texas A&M. John Woodcock, a veteran who attended the event both days, said the experience of seeing veterans from all over was amazing.

“It was great to see a bunch of brothers and sisters together from all over, not just A&M,” Woodcock said. “I got a lot of experience in a bunch of key matters that I had questions about so far as schooling, education and, ultimately, job placement. I definitely made a lot of connections — not just at the career fair but with some of the brothers here.”


State rep. Bill Flores, Class of 1976, spoke at Operation Veteran Success regarding efforts in Washington to support veterans.


“I think its totally appropriate that this type of event take place at Texas A&M University given our history and the fact that we are one of the most military-friendly campuses in the country,” Flores said.


Flores said the country is well below optimum economic growth and the problem can be linked to threats to national security and additional economic threats.


 “We’ve seen our debt skyrocket over the last five years to the point where it’s 17 trillion dollars, which is about equal to our GDP,” Flores said.


Flores said one program Congress established for veteran support is the Transition Assistance Program to help veterans who are getting ready to end their military careers.


“When a man or woman is getting ready to end their military career, there are multiple choices they are faced with,” Flores said. “Do they go back to school? What are their benefits through the veteran’s health care program? Should they get a job, and what kind of job should they get?”


Flores said the Transition Assistance Program has been in existence for a short period of time and there have been some glitches, but the subcommittees have had several hearings and will continue to work to make the program better.


“One thing I’ve seen is that employers love to hire veterans because they are disciplined, they know how to follow orders and get the job done. They see things through until the end and they are committed,” Flores said. “[The Transition Assistance Program] gives them everything they need so when they get out of the military they are ready to hit the ground running.”


Autumn McKenzie, a student veteran who helped Sessions organize the event, said the event was a means of helping fellow veterans.


“I’m a veteran, too, so it’s great that we all want to help each other out,” McKenzie said. “There is such a big disconnect between the military and the civilian world so things like this are great.”


With the success of the career fair, Sessions said the event coordinators plan to increase the event next year.


“We had such a positive response from the employers who attended, the quality of the people they interviewed and the people they talked with,” Sessions said. “They’re already ready to sign on for next year. The 30 or 40 who stayed — they’re excited, they enjoyed it, they’re telling me they gained a lot from it and they’re looking to invite their friends next year so we’re hoping to make it bigger and better for everybody.”

 

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