Legion aims to help ease transition for servicemembers
Texas Membership and Post Activity Chairman Bret Watson talks to veterans during the Mega Career Fair at Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas on Tuesday, January 14. Photo by Ben Mikesell/The American Legion

Legion aims to help ease transition for servicemembers

View Photo Gallery

The scope of all that servicemembers must contend with when transitioning from the military to civilian life — be it finding a job, getting finances in order, or ensuring they receive all their earned VA benefits — can be overwhelming.

National and department staff of The American Legion and the Department of Texas provided help in addressing those transitional obstacles at a workshop Jan. 13 at Fort Hood.

“We were created to take care of our veterans, and make sure they get what they deserve for serving their country. That’s why we’re here,” Department of Texas Commander Jeff Perkins said.

Several dozen servicemembers, most of whom are planning to transition out of the service within the next year, attended the event the day before the Mega Career Fair at Fort Hood, where the Legion also had an informational booth.

Bret Watson, the department Membership and Post Activities chairman, was among the Legion Family members staffing the booth at the Jan. 14 job fair.

“We need to reach out to the veterans that are transitioning out or retiring from the service, let them know about The American Legion (and) the benefits and the organization,” Watson said.

Monday’s transition workshop included sessions on what civilian employers are looking for in a resume, how to create a resume and apply to federal jobs, learning how to be financially responsible and how to use LinkedIn for networking opportunities.

Department Adjutant Bill West told servicemembers attending the workshop that it “could be some of the most crucial hours” of their day.

“There’s a big transition from military to civilian life,” West said.

Veterans service officers Allen Sharp and Ron Peterson were also on hand Monday to discuss VA benefit claims with servicemembers.

Representatives of several employers and government agencies, among them the U.S. Census Bureau and the Texas Workforce Commission, mingled with servicemembers over lunch to talk about what employers are looking for.

Margret Watson of the Texas Veterans Commission discussed the federal employment process, noting that applying for a federal job requires time, preparation and attention to detail.

She also encouraged servicemembers looking for employment through USAJobs.gov to look once or twice a day, every day, as those job posting are always changing.

Watson also touted GCFLearnFree.org, a website where anyone can learn basic computer programs like Excel or Access, for example, for free.

Legion national staff also encouraged the servicemembers to utilize LinkedIn, especially for networking.

“(Veterans) tend to not ask for help, and that is our No. 1 downfall,” said Ariel de Jesus, assistant director of the Veterans Education and Employment Division. Use those connections from the service, including your spouse’s, de Jesus said.

He also touted the resources of the Legion and other veterans service organizations. “Your VSO’s are great resources; reach out to us,” he told the servicemembers.

“We want to be able to network with them. They need to feel like they can contact us and ask us for help or assistance on anything that they need to be doing,” Perkins said.