On Nov. 10, The American Legion’s Washington, D.C., Executive Director, Peter Gaytan, joined first lady Michelle Obama in encouraging America’s business community to embrace veterans.
Gaytan was among a select group of veterans’ advocates participating in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s fourth annual “Business Steps Up: Hiring Our Heroes” conference. The session featured several awards presentations to recognize leading private-sector employers of military veterans and their spouses. Gaytan took part in an hour-long panel discussion about the unique challenges faced by job-seeking veterans.
Gaytan focused his remarks on the failure of many professional and trade licensing and certification entities to recognize the transferability of military training and skills to their civilian disciplines. “Not only is this an injustice to the highly skilled and experienced service men and women re-entering civilian life, but squandering their talents does an injustice to the American people as a whole. Ignoring our veterans’ capabilities is bad business.”
The event’s keynote speaker, first lady Michelle Obama, was then introduced by Kevin Schmiegel, vice president of the U.S. Chamber and head of its Veterans Employment Program. Schmiegel, a Marine veteran, specifically mentioned The American Legion as among the leaders in the campaign to encourage veterans employment. He also praised the first lady for her championing of military families.
During her 15-minute speech, Mrs. Obama talked of her pride in the Joining Forces initiative which she, along with Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, launched shortly after their husbands took office in 2009. The U.S. Chamber has partnered with Joining Forces by conducting hiring fairs for veterans and military spouses in 100 communities thus far, some with the participation of The American Legion. The Chamber says it will increase its career fair number to several hundred next year.