“They know how to work. They have a strong work ethic. And they know how to work as a team.”

Kinzinger Ellmers Davis and Veterans 011Joined by Three Veterans, Kinzinger, Ellmers & Davis Tout Value of Vets to U.S. Economy

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Reps. Adam Kinzinger (IL-16), Renee Ellmers (NC-2), and Rodney Davis (IL-13) appeared at special breakfast meeting of The Ripon Society yesterday morning to discuss the important role that veterans play in our economy. Military veterans from Wal-Mart, Comcast, and Verizon who have successfully made recent transitions to the private sector were also on hand to share their journey from the battlefield to the business arena.

Kinzinger opened Wednesday’s discussion by noting the successful hiring rates of veterans in our economy and what these former soldiers are bringing to companies across the country.

“In August 2014, the post-9/11 unemployment rate of veterans was 8.1 percent,” the Illinois lawmaker stated. “Today that is 4.7 percent. In just a year, you have that significant of a drop. It’s important to think about the things that we can be doing and the things that we should be doing to ensure that our veterans get a job. But we also should recognize how big of strides we’ve made as a country – not just the government, by the way, but the companies you represent here.

“I can’t tell you the number of times I go to a factory or a company and they say: ‘We’ve made it our goal to hire 10,000 veterans in the next three years.’ That is an amazing thing, and frankly, people should know why hiring a veteran is the best thing for your company. They know how to work. They have a strong work ethic. And they know how to work as a team.”

Kinzinger is currently a Major in the Air National Guard. He took time yesterday morning to not only remind everyone of the service and sacrifice that those in uniform have given to defend our freedoms, but also warn against mischaracterizing these brave men and women of our society.

“Veterans are not victims,” he stated firmly. “One of the things that we have to be careful about is how we talk. A lot of the time, when we talk about veterans, we kind of coddle them. We talk about how special they are – and they are special. We talk about how important it is that we treat them with kid gloves. There are some people under the assumption that if you have ever served in the military or if you have ever served in the war, you have PTSD and we ought to treat you as though we can barely talk around you.

“Let me tell you something — veterans of the United States military are not puppy dogs and kittens. They are fierce warriors who defend this nation every day and they ought to be treated like that. We ought to make sure they have the care they need and the benefits they need. But we also should talk to them and give them the dignity they need as fierce warriors defending this country.”

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Ellmers echoed Kinzinger’s remarks, and discussed the team effort needed to properly assist veterans, including the annual ‘Recruit-a-Vet Job Fair’ that she holds in her central North Carolina District which contains Fort Bragg.

“One of the things that we have done over the past few years is hold a job fair,” Ellmers said. “Last year, we had over 250 businesses that were actually coordinating with our vets and the soon-to-be vets who were coming out of the military. Adam brought up how his background in the military has helped him become a good Member of Congress. My background in nursing has done that as well with the understanding of the importance in being a team. Back home, our veterans are getting out younger than ever and they are coming into the workforce. It is our job to make sure we help. As Adam said, they’re not victims. They want the opportunities, but we have to help them and guide them in the right direction. I think that is something that is vitally important as we move forward.

“I will say, too, for all of the businesses hiring vets, you’ve got the best workforce you could possibly have in a veteran. It’s really up to us in Congress to make sure that we’re working on that effort because back in the District, it is our number one issue – veteran’s issues for our constituent services.”

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Congressman Rodney Davis was next to address the audience. The second-term Member from Illinois took time to detail one of his most important legislative achievements to date, the Hire More Heroes Act – a jobs bill that was passed into law earlier this year and is aimed at incentivizing the growth of small businesses through important changes to the Affordable Care Act.

He opened his statements by recalling a recent conversation that he shared with a veteran in his District last year that helped spark new legislation.

“We’ve got to do everything we can to pair our veterans with opportunities,” Davis declared. “I took an idea that didn’t come in Washington. It started with my Veterans Advisory Board, and it’s called the Hire More Heroes Act.

“One of my veterans asked me: ‘Why is it that a veteran who gets their healthcare through the VA — or if they’re active duty through the DoD — count towards the employer’s 50-employee limit in the Affordable Care Act?’ I said, ‘I don’t know why.’

“We came back, introduced a bill, and it passed virtually unanimously last year. It passed unanimously on the first day of Congress this year. It is now law. This change to Obamacare is going to incentivize small businesses in this country nationwide to hire more of our heroes. It took everyone in our conference to make that happen.”

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Joining the Members of Congress were Retired U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sergeant Chris Jackson from Wal-Mart, three-year Training Officer veteran of the U.S. Navy, Charles Barrett, with Comcast, and Terrence Farmer, a Retired U.S. Army Command Sergeant Major now working with Verizon.

Former Chief Master Sergeant Jackson, who worked as a Superintendent of Mission Support Group at Langley Air Force Base, was asked to describe his experience utilizing a veteran’s job fair to land his current positon as a Shift Manager with Wal-Mart and what advice he would have for other companies looking to hire a veteran.

“The job fair presented a unique opportunity that gave me and other veterans seeking new careers an opportunity to address and ask questions to employers who were seeking us. I was fortunate enough to go through a job fair at Quantico Marine Base and meet a market human resources manager there.

“We had a lengthy conversation about me, my background and what I did for the military, a little about my education level, and I got to ask him about Wal-Mart and why I should work there. The managerial skillsets and the training that I brought to the team, along with what they offered to veterans – seemed to be a perfect match.

“With anyone that might be considering bringing a veteran onto their team, what you’re going to get is a person that is motivated and determined to do what is needed to get the job done. They’re going to be selfless by nature. The folks that come from the military, they give, they give, and they give, all without asking for much.”

Charles Barrett, who is a Business Account Executive with Comcast, shared how the discipline and mental toughness he learned in the Navy has helped him to succeed in his current role.

“I joined the military when I was 23. I was thrown into a leadership role right away, which helped me grow as an individual and mature. This helped me to be more accountable with time management, increase my attention to detail, and ultimately make sure that we’re operating as a functional team.

“Being on deployments, detachments, and training operations really helped me with building mental toughness and perseverance. If I’m out in the field and having a bad day, I know it’s never as bad as 19 hours on a ship or eating MRE’s. A bad day here is nothing like a bad day then. It shows with my team members as well. The stress doesn’t get to me as much, and that mentality rubs off on my team members.”

Terence Farmer, a Mass Business Market’s Installation & Maintenance Supervisor for Verizon, was the final panelist to address the audience. In his remarks, he offered advice to other veterans who might be looking to enter the private sector for the first time since their service, and specifically, how Verizon was able to help him make a smooth transition.

“Often times, we leave the military on our own, but it is very important that everyone stays connected,” Farmer said. “If you’re in this room and are committed to veterans and soldiers, reach out to an individual because they don’t always know where to go. I will also say, start early. The sooner you start the process, the better your chances are of getting the job you want.”

“One thing about Verizon that was helpful to me is that they have a team of military recruiters and individuals that focus on veterans. When I contacted them, they made the process easy. They understood my background and were able to map my career field and help me apply those skills to a job I was looking for. In fact, they even made the process easier because they knew what I was looking for better than I did.”

To view the complete remarks of yesterday’s panel before The Ripon Society’s breakfast discussion, please click on the link below:

The Ripon Society is a public policy organization that was founded in 1962 and takes its name from the town where the Republican Party was born in 1854 – Ripon, Wisconsin. One of the main goals of The Ripon Society is to promote the ideas and principles that have made America great and contributed to the GOP’s success. These ideas include keeping our nation secure, keeping taxes low and having a federal government that is smaller, smarter and more accountable to the people.