With the political rhetoric finally over, there’s one inspiring message that everyone can agree with—our veterans already make America great every day. Every veteran who joined the military following the end of the draft in 1973 volunteered to serve our country. And they want to continue serving even after they packed away their uniforms.
During remarks delivered at Arlington Cemetery last year, the President noted that bringing veterans into the workforce shouldn’t necessarily reflect some moral obligation, charity or patriotism. Veterans, including those with disabilities, are simply good for business. Our veterans possess training, skills, leadership, and motivation ideally suited for public service. Following their commitment of service during one of the longest struggles in history, our veterans consistently reflect passion, resilience, and tenacity to get the job done. Their talents are seasoned by deployments, honed in many cases under the stress of combat, and forever shaped by an ethos dedicated to mission success.
I’m proud to say that the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) has been expanding its veterans’ ranks. This year GIPSA hired 12 veterans in permanent employment positions. This number represents 18 percent of all GIPSA permanent new hires. Another two were brought aboard on a temporary basis. Our motivation is part of a broader initiative that began seven years ago.
Since 2009, the President recognized that as one of the nation’s leading employers, the federal government is always seeking highly skilled individuals to meet staffing needs and support mission objectives. He issued Executive Order 13518 on November 8 that year to do everything possible to assist veterans re-enter civilian life and find employment.
The result was a government blueprint that sponsors initiatives in job counseling, recruitment, hiring, and training. It also established an inter-agency council to coordinate efforts for hiring veterans. USDA, along with other executive branch agencies, is represented in the President’s Council on Veterans Employment.
Secretary Vilsack recently announced a new USDA jobs program to hire new employees as agricultural commodity graders, and also increase jobs for veterans. The initiative is a collaboration among USDA, the Department of Labor (DOL), and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). DOL approved the curriculum and registered it as an official source for job training and VA approved the use of Veterans Benefits, which may include a monthly housing allowance as well as an additional stipend for books and supplies.
Piloted by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, the apprenticeship program combines on-the-job training with instruction in the classroom and online. Apprentices who complete the paid training program will meet the qualifications for a position as a USDA Agricultural Commodities Grader—a key role in USDA’s mission to protect American consumers.
Although the program is open to anyone interested in a career in agriculture, Secretary Vilsack said he is proud the program offers veterans a path to success and hopes many will take advantage of the opportunity. “If they are passionate about a career in agriculture, we want to help them achieve it,” he said.
This Veterans Day celebrations may be overshadowed by the intensity of a presidential election concluding 48 hours beforehand. Even so, it is our civic responsibility to demonstrate true unity in support of the few who have borne burdens for so many. As the nation pauses to reflect on its national character, it is a fitting tribute that our outgoing commander in chief, among his many initiatives on behalf of those who wore America’s uniform, last month signed the Veterans Day Moment of Silence Act. Perhaps encouraging two minutes of silence each Veterans Day will heal not just scars of battles now forgotten, but also mend recent tears in our national fabric.
I’m optimistic that the next president will champion the potential of our veterans as much as the current one. It is one indisputable measure of national pride on which we can all agree.