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Veteran Jobs - Giving Our Vets a Fighting Chance

We go inside an innovative program aimed at helping disabled veterans not just find a job, but create their own.
Veteran Jobs - Giving Our Vets a Fighting Chance

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Oklahoma State University

Show Dates

Show 1209: Veteran Jobs - Giving Our Vets a Fighting Chance

Air date: February 26, 2012

 

Transcript

ROB MCCLENDON:  WELL ALL TOGETHER THREE THOUSAND OKLAHOMANS WERE DEPLOYED LAST JUNE TO AFGHANISTAN AND KUWAIT AS PART OF THE 45TH INFRANTRY BRIGADE’S COMBAT TEAM.  AND WE’RE NOW STARTING TO SEE SOME OF THE FIRST OKLAHOMA GUARDSMEN RETURN HOME.  TWO OF WHAT WILL BE SEVERAL GROUPS OF OKLAHOMA TROOPS ARE RETURNING TO THE STATE TO UNDERSTANDBLY TEARFUL REUNIONS,  A JOYOUS OCCASION THAT FOR MANY OF THESE CITIZEN SOLDIERS IS THE FIRST STEP BACK INTO CIVILIAN LIFE.  AND WHILE OKLAHOMA BOASTS ONE OF THE LOWEST UNEMPLOYMENT RATES IN THE COUNTRY, FOR SOME OF THESE SERVICEMEN FINDING A JOB CAN BE TOUGHER THAN YOU THINK.  JOINING ME NOW IS OUR COURTENAY DEHOFF.

COURTENAY DEHOFF:  WELL ROB, A GROWING NUMBER OF AMERICAN VETERANS ARE COMING HOME TO A FIGHT OF A DIFFERENT KIND, UNEMPLOYMENT.  WITH RECORD NUMBERS OF SOLDIERS RETURNING FROM IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN, UNEMPLOYMENT RATES AMONG MEN AND WOMEN WHO SERVED THEIR COUNTRY ARE ABOVE THE NATIONAL AVERAGE.  BUT AN INNOVATIVE PROGRAM AT OKLAHOMA STATE UNIVERSITY IS HOPING TO CHANGE THAT AND GIVE THESE HEROS A NEW SET OF TOOLS AS THEY STEP INTO CIVILIAN LIFE.

THE NAMES OF HEROS LINE THE DESKS, SYMBOLIZING THAT THEY GAVE THE ULTIMATE SACRIFICE AND NOW A GROUP OF ENTREPRENEURS IS HONORING THEM IN BIG WAYS.

CHRISTOPHER STOKES:  A LOT OF THESE GUYS THAT I’M SITTIN’ IN CLASS WITH, AND GALS SITTIN’ IN CLASS WITH, HAVE SEEN A LOT OF THINGS THAT NOBODY SHOULD EVER SEE AND HAVE REALLY SACRIFICED A LOT PERSONALLY; TAKEN AWAY FROM THEIR INNOCENCE, AND AGAIN, HAVE SACRIFICED A GREAT DEAL.  AND THIS IS A REALLY GREAT WAY THAT OKLAHOMA STATE AND THE SPEARS BUSINESS SCHOOL HAS GIVEN BACK TO THESE FOLKS.

COURTENAY:  FOR EIGHT INTENSE DAYS DISABLED VETERANS FROM ACROSS THE COUNTRY ARE KICKING OFF AND REVAMPING THEIR BUSINESSES, TAKING PART IN THE VETERAN ENTREPRENEURSHIP PROGRAM THAT PROVES TO BE A BOOTCAMP OF A DIFFERENT KIND.  U S AIRFORCE LIEUTENANT COLONEL, CHRISTOPHER STOKES.

STOKES: BUT I’M HERE BECAUSE I WANT TO RENEW, I WANT TO, I WANT TO, I HAVE SOME OTHER IDEAS AND SOME BUSINESS PLANS THAT I WANT TO FLUSH OUT.  AND COMING TO THIS PROGRAM HAS HELPED TO MOTIVATE ME AND GET ME EXCITED ABOUT THEM.  BECAUSE, YOU KNOW, I’VE GOT KIDS, AND ALL KINDS OF OTHER THINGS PULLING AT ME.  SO, I TOOK A WEEK OUT OF MY LIFE TO TRY TO RE-LIGHT THAT ENTREPRENEURIAL FIRE THAT I KNOW I HAVE, IT’S IN ME, BUT UH, MAYBE JUST NEEDS A LITTLE REFRESHER COURSE I GUESS.

MALE VOICE:  I’M TELLING YOU, YOU’RE BUSINESS WILL SUDDENLY TAKE OFF.

COURTENAY:  OSU ENTREPRENEURSHIP CHAIR MICHAEL MORRIS BELIEVES ENTREPRENEURSHIP CAN BE THEIR ROADMAP BACK INTO CIVILIAN LIFE.

MICHAEL MORRIS:  WHAT WE TRY TO DO IS WALK THE ENTREPRENEURIAL PATH WITH THESE VETERANS.  SO, THE PROGRAM IS A YEAR LONG PROGRAM THAT HAS THREE COMPONENTS TO IT; THEY DO A SIX WEEK ONLINE PRE-COURSE WITH OUR FACULTY, THEY THEN COME INTO STILLWATER FOR EIGHT EXTREMELY INTENSIVE DAYS, THEY THEN RECEIVE TEN MONTHS OF ONE-ON-ONE MENTORING FROM AN ENTREPRENEUR.  WE VIEW ENTREPRENEURSHIP AS EMPOWERMENT.  SO AS A VETERAN TRIES TO TRANSITION FROM THE MILITARY, TRIES TO TRANSITION FROM DEALING WITH HIS OR HER DISABILITY, THIS PROGRAM IS ABOUT THEM CREATING THEIR OWN FUTURE, THEM HAVING A DREAM, THEM CREATING THEIR OWN JOBS, CREATING JOBS FOR OTHER VETERANS, CREATING THEIR OWN WEALTH.

COURTENAY:  BUT PERHAPS THE GREATEST WEALTH IS THE GRATITUDE AND APPRECIATION FOR THE PROGRAM THAT CAN BE HEARD IN THEIR VOICES.

STOKES:  THEY NEED SUPPORT.  THEY’VE COME BACK FROM A VERY, VERY NASTY PLACE AND A LOT OF THEM HAVE SCARS THAT OTHER PEOPLE DON’T HAVE TO DEAL WITH; AND THEN THEY COME BACK AND THEY’RE UNEMPLOYED AND THEY NEED SUPPORT.  AND SO PROGRAMS LIKE THIS ARE JUST PERFECT FOR WHAT THEY NEED, IT HELPS THEM BRIDGE THAT GAP FROM, FROM THAT NASTY WORLD OF COMBAT BACK TO NORMALCY.

MATTHEW GRAY:  IT’S A DREAM COME TRUE; YEAH, IT REALLY IS!

COURTENAY:  MATTHEW GRAY, OF THE U S ARMY’S SPECIAL MISSIONS UNIT AGREES THIS IS THE ULTIMATE THANK YOU.

GRAY:  YOU KNOW, ONE OF THE BEST THINGS YOU CAN DO FOR A VET IS TO SAY THANK YOU, BUT IT’S INCREDIBLE WHENEVER SOMETHING LIKE THIS COMES UP AND IT’S FOCUSED JUST ON YOU, OR JUST ON WHAT A VETERAN CAN DO WITH THE OPPORTUNITIES THAT ARE OUT THERE.  IT’S, IT’S, I CAN’T, IT’S INVALUABLE, IT REALLY IS.

COURTENAY:  AND IT CERTAINLY DOESN’T END WHEN THESE VETERANS LEAVE THE CAMP.  LARRY VAN SCHUYVER IS A GRADUATE OF THE PROGRAM AND IS ROLLING OUT HIS NEW BUSINESS IN OKLAHOMA CITY.

LARRY VAN SCHUYVER:  WE STARTED OFF IN A HOSPITAL BED AFTER GETTING INJURED DURING MY TOURS OF IRAQ.  I DID A DESIGN AND STARTED SELLING AND PEOPLE SAID CAN YOU GIVE ME THAT DRAWING?  AND SO, THAT’S THE WAY IT STARTED.

COURTENAY:  WITH LITTLE EXPERIENCE VAN SCHUYVER SAYS HE FELL INTO HIS BUSINESS.

LARRY:  I LIKED TO DRAW AND PIDDLE AND HONOR OUR TROOPS SO IT WAS JUST DOING DESIGNS TO BASICALLY, HAVE A GOOD TIME WHILE YOU’RE TRYING TO CHEER UP PEOPLE AROUND YOU THAT ARE WOUNDED OR INJURED.  SO, FROM OUT OF HAVING FUN CAME A BUSINESS.

COURTENAY:  AFTER JOINING FORCES WITH THE OWNERS AT S&S TEXTILES AND REFINING HIS WORK, THE ORDERS STARTED STACKING UP.  BUT AFTER 35 YEARS IN THE MILITARY VAN SCHUYVER NEEDED HELP AND SAYS THE VETERAN ENTREPRENEURSHIP PROGRAM PROVED TO BE JUST WHAT HE NEEDED.

LARRY:  THEY BROUGHT IN GUEST SPEAKERS TO HELP YOU LEARN ABOUT HOW TO RUN A BUSINESS; HOW TO GROW; HOW TO ADVERTISE.  THESE SPEAKERS WERE SOME OF THE BEST THAT I‘VE HEARD IN THE NATION AS FAR AS SAYING, HEY WE CARE ABOUT YOU AS AN INDIVIDUAL.

COURTENAY:  SO WETHER THEY ARE JUST GETTING STARTED, OR ARE RUNNING A SUCCESSFUL BUSINESS, THE PROGRAM GIVES THESE VETERANS A SECOND CHANCE TO LIVE BETTER LIVES AFTER SACRIFICING SO MUCH FOR THEIR COUNTRY.

NOW THIS WAS THE LARGEST GROUP OF PARTICIPANTS EVER WITH FORTY-FIVE DISABLED VETERANS TRAVELING FROM ACROSS THE COUNTRY INCLUDING ALASKA, NORTH CAROLINA, MARYLAND, FLORIDA, AND SEVERAL OTHER STATES.

ROB:  SO HOW MUCH DOES A PROGRAM LIKE THIS COST?

COURTENAY:  ROB THIS PROGRAM IS ENTIRELY FREE FOR DISABLED VETERANS, FROM THEIR AIRFARE TO THEIR MEALS TO THEIR LODGING, THEY DON’T PAY A DIME.  AND IT’S NOT ALL WORK.  THE ENTIRE GROUP GOT TO ATTEND AN OSU BASKETBALL GAME AT GALLAGHER-IBA ARENA, AS WELL AS, OTHER EVENTS.

ROB:  WELL IT CERTAINLY SOUNDS LIKE A GREAT PROGRAM FOR A GROUP OF WELL DESERVED INDIVIDUALS.  WHEN WE RETURN, I WILL TELL YOU ABOUT A NEW OKLAHOMA PROGRAM DESIGNED TO HELP BOTH VETERAN AND CIVILIAN JOB SEEKERS.