Thursday, June 14, 2012

Complete the Degree: Personal & Collaborative Approach to Working with Veterans

Guest blog by Clifton Williams, Center Director for Complete the Degree Chicago

"Transitioning back to civilian life after having served my country is enough stress without the added pressure of looking for a job or deciding a career path."

Statements like these are frequently heard by the Complete the Degree advisers who are dedicated to working with veterans. Complete the Degree is a free program that was recently launched in April with the primary goal of helping adults who did not finish college return and obtain their college degree. The Chicago Workforce Investment Council, the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning, the Illinois Education Foundation, and Women Employed, four non-profit organizations committed to adult education and success, founded the initiative.

Although the program works with all adult retuning students, Complete the Degree has services and staff specifically dedicated to serving active and inactive military personnel. At a time when so many veterans are returning home, veterans need immediate access to a variety of services and resources.

Recently, Mayor Rahm Emanuel launched a "Returning Veterans Initiative" to help find jobs for soldiers coming home to Chicago in order to lower unemployment rates for veterans. He cited figures that show that the jobless rate for veterans is three times higher than the national average. Complete the Degree adviser Donna Clayborn states, "One of the first issues many veterans discuss is their lack of access to jobs. However, many will eventually need to update their skills and qualifications in order to compete in a changing economy and our organization is committed to guiding them throughout that process."

The Mayor’s Initiative seeks to streamline the variety of services offered to veterans. Will Schmutz, Director and Community Liaison for the city’s Advisory Council on Veteran’s Affairs believes that veterans needs someone they can look in the eye and make personal contact with to help them sort through the thousands of websites and resources dedicated to veterans. Complete the Degree partners with colleges and other community-based organizations so that it can offer a variety of information and services to veterans. Although the process is not exactly one-stop shopping, it does greatly reduce the time and energy veterans will ultimately expend seeking the services they will need.

Complete the Degree’s program is a win-win project for a variety of reasons.
  1. Studies have repeatedly shown a correlation between income and education. Complete the Degree seeks to ensure that all returning students, especially those who serve our country, have the financial means to adequately support their families.
  2. A workforce with higher education levels will be in a better position to help the city of Chicago attract and retain employers. Everyone from President Obama to Mayor Emanuel believes that failure to address the talent deficit faced by employers will have negative ramifications on the local and the national level.
  3. Finally, the more income grows, the more revenue is generated in both the public and private sectors. Complete the Degree is one crucial answer to these pressing issues and the organization will continue to be a part of the solution one returning student at a time.

To learn more about Complete the Degree, click here.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

D-Day: 68th Anniversary

by Colonel Paul Herbert, Executive Director of the First Division Museum

This is the 68th anniversary of "D-Day," the Allied landings in Normandy, France, on June 6, 1944. On D-Day, more than 5,000 ships placed 130,000 Allied soldiers on a hostile shore. From Normandy, Allied forces liberated Europe and ensured that Nazi Germany could not concentrate against the Soviet Union, thus forcing Germany’s unconditional surrender.

The heaviest fighting occurred on Omaha Beach where the US Army’s 1st Infantry Division led the assault. There, strong German defenses placed the invasion in danger. Iron-willed soldiers and sailors of all ranks met the crisis. US Navy destroyers placed 5-inch direct fire on targets ashore. Colonel George Taylor urged his men that only the dead would stay on the beach as he led them to the bluffs above. Sergeant John Pinder repeatedly left safety to search for radio parts on the deadly beach where he was killed. General Willard Wyman calmly walked under heavy fire giving direction to soldiers. Private Carleton Barrett rescued many wounded comrades from the surf. Lieutenant John Spaulding led his men through a crease in the German defenses to the top. Lieutenant Jimmie Montieth commandeered two tanks and directed their fire in support of his platoon that likewise scaled the bluffs. These and many others bought victory at a cost of some 10,000 Allied casualties, including more than 4,000 dead.

The Battle for Normandy allowed the Western Allies to meet the Soviets on the Elbe River and not the Rhine, thus allowing a democratic West Germany to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and setting the stage for victory in the Cold War. These benefits to generations of Americans and Europeans are the legacy of D-Day. Normandy stands as a testament to Allied partnership and to the valor of countless Allied soldiers, sailors and airmen. Lest we forget.