The life of a soldier is one of sacrifice. When serving their country, soldiers relinquish opportunities with family and friends and the “normalcy” of the everyday routine living in America. They make this commitment to protect our country and our freedoms, ones that many of us take for granted.
As the mother of a former soldier, I can tell you that military service offers many opportunities for personal growth and achievement, physical and mental challenges, and life lessons one may never experience in any other setting. However, it can also leave emotional scars and physical ailments, making the reentry into the civilian world as equally challenging as anything they may have faced while serving their country. Making the transition from the military, securing employment and creating a positive future once released from duty, can come with its own unique challenges.
GIVING A HELPING HAND
As the Employment Specialist within The Salvation Army’s HOPE (Heroes Obtaining Permanent Employment) Veterans Program, my focus is to assist these brave men and women and their spouses to not only survive, but thrive. The Veteran population we serve are those with limited or no income, who are experiencing homelessness, at risk of becoming homeless or who have a history of homelessness. Additionally, they may also be working through the difficulties of healing from mental health issues and/or addiction.
Through the screening process, which includes assessments to discover their strengths and interests, we explore training opportunities for certifications in industries where the Veteran will be able to begin a new career and secure employment. From instruction in computer software to resume writing, overcoming the obstacles of professional interviewing, as well as assistance with transportation and specialty work clothing, we strive to meet the needs of our Veterans as they work diligently to create a positive future for themselves and their families.
Meet Eure Benson
One of the Veterans I have worked with through this program is Eure Benson.
After graduating with an Associate’s Degree in Commercial Art, Benson served in the Marines from 1990 to 1996. After his return from service, he worked in the chemical industry, which took him all over the country. He settled in Houston, in 2000, with his wife and children. Everything changed after Hurricane Harvey. The family lost the house they were renting along with all their possessions, and these hardships took a toll on his relationship. For a month, he was living in his truck, but knew that at least his children were safe with family. After learning that The Salvation Army offered programs for veterans, Benson came to the Harbor Light Center and Red Shield Lodge in October 2017.
Not having to worry about where his next meal would come from, and on the path to independence, Benson put his talent on canvas and painted several pieces during his stay at our shelter. I must say, he is a very gifted artist! I encouraged him to continue painting and recommended pursuing a vocation in welding, which requires the same hand/eye coordination needed to for painting. Benson was excited about the opportunity. We created a plan for him, which included fire retardant clothing for safety in class as well as bus passes for transportation to and from the classes. I am proud to share that he recently completed his 280 hours of training. The future looks promising; this week he’ll be moving into his own apartment and he has a welding job lined up for next month.
Since December 2017, The Salvation Army has assisted and guided Veterans in their journey to independence. Currently, we are serving our seventy-fifth Veteran, with the goal of doubling that number by December 2018. Of that number, 92% have desired additional education for the potential of higher earnings, with the majority registering for certifications in welding, forklift, Nurse’s Aid or obtaining their Commercial Driver’s License.
The dedicated staff members of The Salvation Army Veteran’s Programs are privileged to partner with Veterans who have sacrificed so much for all Americans. It is an honor to serve them, and working together we will create a brighter future for them and their families; one assessment, one certification and one job placement at a time.
About the Author
Since November 2017, Susan King has served as the Employment Specialist at The Salvation Army Harbor Light Center & Red Shield Lodge. King has worked in three different Salvation Army facilities in Houston. She began her Salvation Army career as an Administrative Assistant at the Adult Rehabilitation Center from 2002 to 2006. In 2013, she returned to The Salvation Army as an Instructor/Statistician at our women’s shelter Sally’s House, where she remained until she moved to her current position at the Harbor Light Center.
King’s nonprofit career also includes positions with Prison Fellowship Ministries, the Bair Foundation Child & Family Ministries, Impact for Life Campus and Trinity Episcopal Church.
King is the proud mother of Kathryn Taylor Ellis, a former U.S. Army Specialist, and Christopher, who recently celebrated his fifteen-year anniversary with Kroger.