Veterans Green Jobs is addressing our nation’s energy and environmental security challenges through utilizing one of our Nation’s greatest natural leadership resources: the veteran population. By doing this, VGJ hopes to replicate the camaraderie, intensity, and meaning of work that our service members experienced in uniform service in their civilian lives.
We started our work with our first cohort in April of 2009. Looking at a picture of this first group, you could not point to the individuals struggling with post traumatic stress issues, the individual with symptoms of traumatic brain injury, those veterans who were once homeless, or the young combat veteran and single father who has only 52% of his lung capacity due to injuries received at war. In other words, you could not look at the picture and pick out the veteran who was or was not disabled. Disabled is defined by the 1990 American with Disabilities Act as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of such individual.
From the beginning, VGJ has been serving disabled veterans and believes that regardless of a disability being visibly noticed or not, our veterans coming back from service or war who are disabled need to have the same opportunities and possibilities afforded them that any veteran returning to a life outside of uniform is afforded. Unfortunately, our country has failed since the Vietnam era to welcome properly home any veteran and those with disabilities face additional challenges. As a group, veterans face a troubling picture painted through higher levels of homelessness, incarceration, drug use, violence, unemployment, and suicide than the non-veteran population.
Working through the vehicle of green jobs and cohort based training we believe veterans, regardless of disability, can take a leadership role in securing America’s energy security and repaint the veteran experience in a decidedly more positive light. VGJ is working with many different partners, including NTAR, to ensure that we do not leave any veteran behind and that all of our programs are as universal in design and delivery for maximum inclusion.
We are also working on a joint project with the Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS), the Colorado Historic Society, and the Homelake Foundation to create the Nation’s first disabled veterans green jobs training center. This project aims to convert a portion of the Homelake Veterans Center outside Monte Vista, Colorado to become this needed facility. Our hope over the next three to four years is to implement a phased facility renovation program creating residential, instruction, and community facilities on the site. These will integrate universal and renewable energy and green building principles already underway at the site. Part of the intended use of these facilities is to create active and regular opportunities for engagement with the larger local community. Disabled veterans will be key participants and workers in the further creation and construction of this vision.
I encourage anyone reading this blog post who has additional interest in our programs, or any ideas, resources, comments, contacts, or questions about our work in general and the Homelake project specifically, to visit our website www.veterangreenjobs.org to learn more. Please also comment here, or contact me directly about how we can together achieve our vision of not leaving any veteran behind
Director of Operations and National Programs
Veterans Green Jobs