WHARTON – A dozen U.S. military veterans were honored by students of Wharton Elementary School Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013.
Veteran’s Day was Monday, Nov. 11th, but since it is a school holiday, several Boone County Schools used Thursday and Friday to show their gratitude to veterans for their personal service and sacrifice for America’s freedom.
“This is our heritage and why we have the freedom to be here today, Roger Toney, interim principal at the school. “Our kids have been learning and hearing about veterans to prepare for this event and now it’s nice for them to be able to faces and names with what they have been learning and talking about.”
The program inside Wharton Elementary’s gymnasium included a movie, patriotic songs, poetry and a flag folding ceremony.
Veterans were invited to stay for lunch with the students and parents afterwards.
“It’s always an honor to be invited and come to these types of events,” said Clinton “Gail” Johner, a U.S. Army veteran, whose grandchildren attend the school.
Johner’s grandchildren are Dallas and Dakota Vint and Maycee Johner, all third grade students, and Mason Johner who is in pre-kindergarten at Wharton.
“The kids’ Uncle Odie Harvey was there, a U.S. Marine veteran, along with a church friend Delano Gibson, who is also a U.S. Marine veteran,” Johner added.
Some members of the V.F.W. Post #5578 of Madison were also present for the event.
The veterans were presented with cards from various classrooms, and the students cheered and saluted the veterans for their service to the country.
“It’s really nice that they do this for the veterans. I really appreciate it and I know the other guys appreciate it too,” Johner said.
Meanwhile, in Washington,D.C., U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), along with his Congressional Veterans Jobs Caucus co-chairs, Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), Representative Jeff Denham (R-Calif.) and Representative Tim Walz (D-Minn.), introduced the United We Stand to Hire Veterans Act last week, a bipartisan, bicameral bill that would streamline and consolidate duplicative government job portals to better connect current and former members of the Armed Services with employment opportunities.
“Our veterans are some of the most disciplined, reliable, hardworking, and dedicated individuals in the world. They are trained to strive for excellence and exceed expectations every day. Their leadership and high-tech skills are unmatched worldwide,” Senator Manchin said. “So it makes zero sense that our veterans find it difficult to search for jobs when they return home. That’s simply unacceptable. The very least we can do to show our appreciation to our veterans is to help them find jobs. Like I’ve always said, if you want to help a vet, hire a vet, and this bill is one step toward making it easier for our service men and women to find opportunities for good-paying jobs.”
“We owe everything to those who wore the uniform in defense of our country,” Senator Kirk said. “In honor of their sacrifices, we should provide every available resource to help our returning heroes transition to civilian life and enter the workforce. This legislation will make it easier for veterans to take advantage of government employment services with the ultimate goal of getting a high-quality job.”
Veterans returning home from Afghanistan and Iraq face an unemployment rate that is 3 percent higher than the national average. Today, the Departments of Defense, Labor and Veterans Affairs operate duplicative portals aimed at veterans and service members searching for public and private sector jobs. Combined with a wealth of resources provided by the private and nonprofit sectors, the lack of a single government portal to connect employers with veterans makes navigating the hiring process difficult for both the job seeker and organizations looking to hire them. No requirement currently exists for government agencies to consolidate these services.
The United We Stand to Hire Veterans Act would require the consolidation of each department’s online employment services into a single portal across the federal government within one year of enactment. The basic function of portal would remain the same: connect veterans and members of the Armed Services with public and private sector employers seeking to hire people with military experience. The portal would also provide other resources to veterans like resume assistance.
Senators Kirk and Manchin and Representatives Denham and Walz, established the bipartisan, bicameral Congressional Veterans Jobs Caucus to shed light on the employment challenges Active Duty, Reserve and National Guard Members face as they transition to civilian life. The Caucus engages executive branch agencies, educational institutions and the private sector to help identify ways to reduce the unemployment rate of the nation’s approximately 21 million veterans.
Rockefeller, the longest serving member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, last week also released the following statement on the full Senate’s action to provide disabled veterans and their families with an increase in veterans’ compensation payments through a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA).
“On Veterans Day, we pay particularly close attention to these men and women each year and their incredible sacrifices for our country. After giving so much for all of us, disabled veterans and their families should never have to worry about how they’ll afford medical expenses and other monthly bills,” Rockefeller said. “The COLA increase in this bill shows our disabled veterans that we care about their well-being and their families. It’s a meaningful way to honor their service and sacrifice, and to make sure they’re cared for.”
The bipartisan COLA bill, passed by the Senate late last month, calls for a cost-of-living increase to veterans’ compensation payments beginning on December 1, 2013. The COLA was last increased on December 1, 2012, because of legislation Rockefeller sponsored and led to final passage by the Senate.
Rockefeller is a leading champion for veterans. The senator has long fought to protect veterans’ benefits, strengthen consumer protections for veterans, and improve veterans’ access to quality health care as well as education and job training programs.
Last weekend in Parkersburg, Rockefeller led a panel discussion at Parkersburg High School as part of Take a Veteran to School Day that featured several extraordinary West Virginia veterans including: Fred Mayer, a Charles Town resident and World War II veteran; John Proe, a Charles Town resident and Vietnam veteran; Jessica Lynch, a former POW who served in Iraq and is an educator in Wirt County; and Admiral Thomas Lopez, a West Virginia native from Fayette County who is a retired four star admiral and served as Commander in Chief, United States Naval Forces, Europe and Commander in Chief Allied Forces, Southern Europe.
“Having kids learn from veterans makes them more aware of their place in the world. There’s nothing like hearing the lessons they have to teach,” Rockefeller said during the panel discussion.