Murray visits OC veterans center

Senator Patty Murray and Richard Tift from the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility chat at Olympic College Wednesday morning. - Kevan Moore
Senator Patty Murray and Richard Tift from the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility chat at Olympic College Wednesday morning.
— image credit: Kevan Moore

Senator Patty Murray visited Olympic College Bremerton Wednesday morning to discuss her ongoing efforts to help veterans get enrolled in school and find jobs.

Murray said her efforts to help veterans get the jobs they need helps “make sure they have more than just a ‘Thank you,’ but a real ability to participate in their communities.”

“It wasn’t that long ago that the military really looked at their military members once they walked out the door and put on their civilian clothes as no longer being their problem,” Murray said. “We have really turned that around with the VOW to Hire Heroes Act.”

Passed in 2011, the law makes it mandatory for most service members to benefit from Transition Assistance Program (TAP) while returning back to civilian life. Prior to its passage, the average unemployment rate among returning veterans was 12.1 percent and one in four veterans between the ages of 20 and 24 couldn’t find work. Since VOW became law, the unemployment rate for post-9/11 veterans is on par with non-veterans.

One woman who is benefiting from the new law is Navy veteran and Olympic College student Kathryn Halloran who was part of a roundtable discussion with Sen. Murray in the college’s Veteran and Military Support Center. Halloran started at the college last summer after a nearly 19-year career in the Navy and is studying mechanical engineering and hopes to eventually work at Keyport.

“It’s nice to know there are more programs out there for veterans and they are teaching it through the Transition Assistance Program,” she said. “Knowing how many students there actually are here it’s kind of nice to see it.”

The college has about 1,700 veterans enrolled at this time and the veterans center had about 4,000 visits last year.

Other members of the

approximately one-hour roundtable discussion included OC President Dr. David Mitchell; Combat Veterans International Chapter 5 Vice President Mike Carroll; Pam Delaney, a supervisor with Fleet and Family Services for Navy Region Northwest; Larry Cleman, the project coordinator at the college’s veteran center; Amy C. Hatfield from WorkForce Development; and Richard Tift, an executive director at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility.

Tift noted that the shipyard was hit with a hiring freeze Jan. 14 that was subsequently lifted June 18. Since then, PSNS & IMF have made 610 verbal employment offers, including 215 offers to veterans. In addition, they have hired 67 wounded warriors this year.

“It’s good, but there is still room to do better,” he told Murray. “It’s not for a lack of trying, though. We are out there going to where we need to be for veterans that are transitioning.”

Carroll, from Combat Veterans International, told Murray about his experience of coming home from Vietnam in 1971.

“It put a lot of military guys out on the street looking for a job,” he said. “The advantage was it was a pretty decent economy at that time, so a lot of us were able to transition. But many of us never transitioned for the obvious reasons — PTSD and other things that were involved with that.”

Carroll noted that many Vietnam veterans didn’t talk about their service, something he himself didn’t do for 30 years, and never received a warm welcome home. He said Vietnam veterans kind of came out of the woodwork about 10 or 12 years ago when other wars were starting up.

“And the Vietnam veterans were saying to the community, this generation of vets will not be treated like our generation of vets have been treated,” Carroll said.

Towards the end of the discussion, Murray went back to what Carroll had said earlier in the morning.

“You and I saw Vietnam veterans coming home and literally going nowhere because no one was, first of all, saying thanks and no one was taking the second step to really make sure they had the support and ability to be a great citizen when they came home,” Murray told Carroll. “So, I’m with you. We’re doing better because of people like you and I appreciate it.”


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