The American Legion attended the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DoL) 2017 Salute to Veterans event on Nov. 9 in Washington, D.C., to learn what programs and initiatives are available for the military community through government agencies and veteran advocate organizations.
The event featured a panel discussion moderated by Barbara Carson, associate administrator for the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Veterans Business Development. Guest speakers included U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation Hiring Our Heroes President Eric Eversole; Hiring Our Heroes Military Spouse Program Director Elizabeth O’Brien; Got Your 6 Executive Director Bill Rausch; and Dog Tag Bakery, Inc. CEO Meghan Ogilvie.
“The part that we focus on is empowering military spouses to enter the workforce, return to the workforce and find meaningful paths for career opportunities,” O’Brien said. “We know that if we can touch a spouse during their active-duty servicemembers’ days, it impacts the success of the veterans servicemembers’ transition. We’re working daily to change the narrative around military spouses and the space of employment.”
Dog Tag Bakery empowers transitioning service-disabled veterans, military spouses and caregivers to discover personal and professional fulfillment in the civilian world through an innovative five-month business and entrepreneurship-focused fellowship program.
Ogilvie said the linchpin of the program is Dog Tag Bakery, a two-level storefront facility located in the heart of Georgetown in Washington, D.C., which provides a vehicle for veterans to put their newly acquired skills into context. Veterans not only learn every aspect of a small business from operation to marketing, but also take part in learning labs, she said.
“We foster this entrepreneurial mindset within our own small business which is Dog Tag Bakery,” said Ogilvie, a 2017 Presidential Leadership Scholar and recipient of the U.S. Army's Outstanding Civilian Service Award. “You’ll come into our program and go through seven different courses that are in a classroom above our bakery that are taught by (Georgetown University) professors. Our fellows earn a certificate in business administration from Georgetown University. And then, they’ll spend nine hours a week within our small business to understand the ins and outs of actually running a small business.”
By offering four different working rotations through the storefront and nonprofit positions, Ogilvie said Dog Tag goes beyond education and job training to ensure the fellows are fully supported and become leaders in their chosen fields.
“A lot of our fellows come into our program saying, ‘I’m ready to get out. I’m ready to get going. I’m ready to move forward.’ But they don’t take the time and space to really figure out what that means for them and what that means for their family,” she said. “For our organization, that transition period is really about giving the time and space, but also the support with going through the wellness piece of our program.”
When it comes to empowering veterans and strengthening communities, Rausch said Got Your 6 believes that veterans are leaders, team builders and problem solvers who have the unique potential to dispel myths about the military community.
For Rausch, the reality is much more complex. He said strengthening perceptions about veterans is an important step to help change the cultural narrative.
“A transitioning veteran can darn near do anything,” said Rausch, a former Army major with more than 10 years of service. “That network (of opportunity) that we had in the military can and should be recreated in the civilian sector. Once we do that, we not only benefit but I think that’s the solution to a lot of issues in our country right now – that lack of community which prevents everyone, not just veterans and military family members, from not getting the job or career that they deserve.”
During the Salute to Veterans event, DoL officials also announced a new program called the Honoring Investments in Recruiting and Employing (HIRE) Vets Medallion Program. The HIRE Program, which is expected to launch as a demonstration in 2018, will recognize companies and organizations for their efforts to recruit, retain and employ military veterans.
“We were proud to support the HIRE Vets Medallion Program because we do think that that empowers not only the veteran, but it also helps change the narrative,” Rausch said. “It reinforces the fact to employers that this is a good idea for your company, your community and obviously, your country.”
DoL is establishing the program under the HIRE American Military Veterans Act that President Donald Trump signed into law in May. The demonstration will be geared toward recognizing up to 300 organizations for their contributions on Veterans Day in 2018.
The secretary of labor will recognize successful applicants with an award and a virtual HIRE Vets Medallion that can either be placed on websites or used in social media and printed materials. Full implementation of the HIRE Program will occur in 2019, according to DoL’s website.
“When I think about the medallion program, what I get excited about is that there are already corporations and companies doing this (but) they don’t know about it yet,” Rausch said. “I think there’s a huge opportunity to really build a large coalition of shared best practices.”
Learn more about the HIRE Vets Medallion Program at www.dol.gov/vets/hirevets/.