Committed Communities Making a Difference for Vets

Photo by Garth Milan

One of the things I love most about America is our willingness to come together when it counts. Strong communities build strong societies and citizens. I know, because I was blessed to grow up in the center of a close-knit Kentucky community, a place where we looked out for each other and helped those in need. It was that strong Kentucky community that raised me, and the same one that welcomed me home from war.

Hundreds of thousands of service members leave the military and return to their home communities every year, and unfortunately, many of them will struggle with this transition. It is a challenging one. In my opinion, no job will ever compare to being a United States Marine. As a result, one of the toughest fights we as veterans will ever face is figuring out what to do once we take off the uniform. Returning home from Afghanistan to a network of friends, family, and neighbors made all the difference in my transition from combat to civilian life, which is why I am always so encouraged when I see other communities rally behind their returning veterans.

Ever since I received the Medal of Honor, I have been on a new mission to help my fellow veterans make the same sometimes difficult jump I made from service member to civilian. As a result, I teamed up with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation's Hiring Our Heroes and Toyota, and in doing so, I have had the chance to travel across the country in an effort to help unite communities around veteran hiring. What I have seen in the process has inspired me, and it's something I hope to continue to see replicated in cities and towns across America.

Later this week, I will travel to Houston to take part in a veteran and military spouse hiring expo hosted by Hiring Our Heroes and the Houston Rockets at the Toyota Center. At the hiring event on Wednesday, hundreds of veterans, transitioning service members, and military spouses of all ranks and levels of experience will come out to meet with recruiters from more than 100 companies and organizations. But beyond that, the entire community - businesses, service organizations, private citizens -- will collaborate to make the event much more than a traditional hiring fair. From the Texas Workforce Commission volunteers at the registration table to the Houston Rockets' Director of Human Resources Kristen Harper, who will kick off the expo with me, the city's commitment to supporting its veterans and military families will be on full display throughout the day. Employees from local companies will take time off on a weekday morning to review resumes and conduct mock interviews. Veteran and spouse attendees will even receive free tickets to that night's military appreciation game between the Rockets and the New Orleans Pelicans. And the Rockets and Gulf States Toyota will continue their support of veterans all month long, featuring Hiring Our Heroes at every home game in March as the Rocket's Charity of the Month.

No one will be paid to offer their time or energy to review those resumes. No medals or recognition will be waiting for those registration volunteers. Instead, the city of Houston has decided that it will meet a need with an opportunity and the people of Houston will show up to support these veterans and their families. I already know that the results will be tremendous, too, because the military men and women who will turn up in search of new opportunities in Houston are equally as devoted to their community. They are ready to serve again, prepared to use their skills in medicine, logistics, management, and more to get the job done for the right employer.

This is a formula that has worked before and will work again, but it takes the strength and character of a community - one that is ready and willing to welcome its veterans home with not just open arms, but with real economic opportunity. I encourage communities across the country to invest in their veterans. I guarantee the return on that investment will surpass their expectations.

Are you a veteran or military spouse in the Houston area who is interested in coming to the event? Find more information and register here. Need a great resume to bring with you? I'm proud that my work with Hiring Our Heroes and Toyota has included building a completely free resume tool specifically for veterans. Visit and give it a try today.