In Honor of our Nation’s Veterans

“Freedom isn’t free”- United States Air Force Colonel Walter Hitchcock

july-16674_150Today, we remember the thousands of men and women who have served our country, sometimes giving their lives to protect and defend our ideals and freedom. These courageous individuals are members of our community. They have sacrificed because they believe in the freedoms guaranteed by our Constitution.

Who is a veteran? A veteran may be someone seen in an army jacket, sleeping under a bridge, wondering where their next meal may come from. A veteran may be someone who has engaged in combat overseas, risking their life to defend and protect others, living in unfamiliar surroundings far from home. A veteran may be a young man or woman who has recently come home from fighting a war overseas, seeking a job to provide for their family. A veteran may be a grandparent, struggling with medical bills caused by injuries during service.

Their experiences may have been as recent as the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan or as distant as the Gulf War or wars in Korea and Vietnam, or even World War I and World War II. They have been to Somalia, Bosnia and other war torn countries. They have fought a lengthy battle against drugs in Latin America. They have faced desert storms and provided medical treatment and aid to people in need. No matter where they have served, we reserve this day to remember them and to thank them for protecting this nation. These men and women deserve honor and respect.

On this day, we can reflect on the condition of veterans in our country. The burden of warfare leaves no one unscarred. Though we do our best to honor our veterans, they may endure trials in silence, not knowing where to turn to. They need our support not only through the creation of jobs but also through compassion and understanding regarding physical and mental health issues that can arise due to having served our country.

According to a report in 2012 by the Texas Workforce Investment Council, in the state of Texas in 2011 there were 1,593,072 veterans, an estimated 8.6% of our overall population. In 2011, Texas was the state with the second largest veteran population, second only to California.

This number does not reflect numerous family members, grandparents, parents, sons, daughters, neighbors and friends who may know someone who has served our nation. Counties identified with the highest veteran population in Texas included Harris, Bexar, Tarrant, Travis, Dallas, El Paso, Collin, Denton, Bell, and Williamson. The report stated that more than half of the state’s veterans reside in these counties.

At the time of the report, young veterans were struggling with employment issues, with an overwhelming 30.2 of young servicemen and women facing unemployment. Today, many companies have recognized this need and are attempting to create initiatives expanding employment opportunities for veterans. Many cities host career fairs targeting veterans and attempt to translate military experience into skills that can be used in civilian sectors.

Locally, Austin Community College and the University of Texas provide educational services for veterans. The state of Texas has a program called College Credit for Heroes enabling veterans to gain credits for service. UT has an active student veteran association.

The report also mentioned that nearly 30% of the veteran population live with disabilities. These individuals need care and resources. Here in Austin, there are organizations that donate time and resources to these brave men and women.  Many clinics offer mental health services to veterans for little to no charge. TexVet, a veteran organization in central Texas has an extensive list of resources for veterans and their families.

Though advances have been made to support veterans, the population continues to need our support. According to a statistic by National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, there are 1.4 million veterans at risk of becoming homeless. Recently, members of Habitat for Humanity came together to honor an Austinite and our nation’s oldest World War II veteran, a 107 year old man named Richard Overton. Overton is thankful for his new home and is one of many needing our assistance. This is a beautiful example of the good our community can do for those who have dedicated their lives to the service of others.

On behalf of citizens everywhere, we thank veterans for their bravery, service and sacrifice. Today, let us take a moment to give our appreciation to the service men and women in our community.

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Starbucks to hire 10,000 veterans

NPR reported that Starbucks aims to provide jobs to 10,000 veterans and their spouses over the next five years. The article mentioned available jobs will range from serving up lattes to supply chain management.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user sushique.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user sushique.

The article discussed several issues faced by servicemen when returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan and searching for employment. Issues included prejudice, a difficulty asking for help and assistance and challenges translating skills gained from military experience over to the civilian sector.

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz was quoted saying,

Businesses and business leaders have an obligation and a responsibility to do something about that and to meet these people more than halfway.

The company also plans on creating positions to deal with human resources and veteran retention.

A report by the Institute for Veteran and Military Families outlined several new employment initiatives targeting veterans, from companies like AT&T and Home Depot. Home Depot will reportedly create a “skills translator” that will

takes a veteran’s unique skills that they put on their resume and matches them with jobs that may match their skill sets in a Home Depot store.

Hopefully, these initiatives will translate into more opportunities for veterans.

Sources

Starbucks is Latest Company Aiming to Help Vets Land Jobs (NPR)

The Employment Situation of Veterans May 2013 (Institute for Veteran and Military Families)

Fighting the Good Fight: Spotlight on Sunshine Coffee House

Shaun Crump, taking a moment to enjoy a well deserved cup of coffee.

Shaun Crump has served our country doing tours in Iraq as a member of the U.S. Army. Now that he has returned, he is  transforming lives through a coffee shop initiative supporting war veterans. There is a place for everyone at Sunshine Coffeehouse and the shop aims to serve as a forum for ideas and gathering.

War veteran, Occupy Supporter, Silverman Law client and now coffee shop director, Crump has embraced many roles over the course of his life. Now a resident of Arizona, Crump is trying to turn his life around and create a project to assist veterans in need.

Sunshine Coffeehouse

Two years ago, Crump’s life was drastically different. As a veteran, he faced many issues upon returning to the U.S.

“When I left the military, I was not offered the support that was promised. I found it difficult  to find and sometimes keep a job. I was still a soldier in my mind and that is how I worked. Civilian life is dramatically different from military life. Because of TBI and Post Traumatic Stress, it became hard to have relationships. I drank a lot and was on a path to destroying myself. During Occupy, I met and fell in love with Sunshine, who was a member of the NLG. Through her, I have found the strength and motivation to make a better life for myself. I was fortunate to find her. Many, if not most veterans coming home from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan do not have that support”, Crump wrote in a correspondence with Political Crimes.

After returning home, Crump took part in the Occupy movement in Houston as a veteran living in a homeless shelter. Crump was asked to leave the shelter due to conflicting interests between the shelter and Occupy movement and participated in the Occupy movement for three months. Shortly after while occupying Tranquility Park, he was arrested with 5 other members of the group for refusing to remove a tarp they had constructed as shelter which was determined to be an illegal structure. Thanks to support from the National Lawyers Guild and attorneys like Daphne Silverman, charges were dropped. Silverman was active in organizing lawyers to provide assistance in the Houston movement. The National Lawyers Guild provided legal support and representation to protestors.

Crump wrote, ” Even though many do not see the good that came out of the movement, I found camaraderie, motivation, teamwork, and most of all people who had never or would never have spoken out about the wrongs of the government stood tall during Occupy.”

For those not familiar with the movement, Occupy was hailed as one of the most peaceful movements to date. The movement contains a widely diverse base,  including vets, senior citizens, students , the unemployed, the homeless, peace activists and even corporate employees joined seeking an outlet to air grievances on issues including economic inequality, police brutality, unemployment, home foreclosures and other concerns.

Currently, Crump is striving to get his coffee shop off the ground in the thriving city of Jonesboro. Crump has been embraced by the community, encountering widespread support for his initiative from groups including the Downtown Jonesboro Association, business owners, and members of the community. Even the owner at the projected location interned at a VA hospital and has been a source of encouragement.

“Through Sunshine Coffeehouse I will provide that support for other veterans struggling. The problem with the way veterans are taken care of is the lack of complete support. Most veterans fall through the cracks when seeking help from Veteran Affairs or other outlets ‘dedicated to supporting veterans’. I fell through the cracks as well and I know how hard it is to climb your way out of them alone. That is why I will prioritize employment for veterans and those living in poverty,” Crump noted.

Though Crump has encountered community support and many veterans are interested in partaking in the project, many are outside of Arizona and cannot afford to relocate. Yet Crump remains optimistic and committed to his goal of providing support for vets. Crump noted,

“Veterans do a difficult and often dangerous job for their country… A good way to fill in the cracks is to prioritize employment for veterans. We need jobs and we are highly qualified, but many vets are still looking. Veterans of every era need to step up the demand for the services they have earned. Regular citizens who recognize the sacrifice of military service can step up and support veterans in building businesses, stabilizing their lives and assisting veteran families. All you have to do is ask. Many veterans struggle. They shouldn’t have to.”

Crump is still seeking capital to back the initiative and has plans to open in December of 2013. Those seeking more information about the Sunshine Coffeehouse can visit their facebook page or google site. To support the initiative, visit here.

*Correction: Poltical Crimes wishes to inform that Mr. Crump currently resides in Arkansas, not Arizona.

This blog has been cross blogged to our blog www.politicalcrimes.com .

ACC to offer educational programs to vets

Austin Community College will be offering a fair for veterans this Wednesday, November 6 from 2-5 p.m. at the college’s Round Rock campus, 4400 College Park Drive.

The Austin Statesman reported that the College stated that they will be expanding services and programs for military students.

Among new services provided will be a program called “Vet Success” and a new partnership with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to assist students with questions about benefits or referrals to medical services.

Under one program known as the College Credit for Heroes, vets may be offered college credit for their military training in “energy, information, advanced technology and computer technology”.

More information about programs available for veterans can be found here.

For starters

Its Friday at 5:45, and this is my first blog. Why am I joining the masses of bloggers? …

When I was about 10 years old, my parents took me to the 4th of July celebration at the Miller Outdoor Theatre in my hometown of Houston, Texas. My father sang in the Symphony, and he was chosen to light a canon as part of a 21 canon salute to those serving our country. It was an honor, and I was proud of him.The symphony played all the patriotic songs. I knew most of the words, because we sang them in our elementary school choir class. The fireworks lit up the sky and opened a door in my soul. I doubt I really understood fully what it meant to serve your country, but I understood that it meant that these people loved the rest of us so much that they were willing to risk their lives so that we could be safe. I felt their love very strongly in my young heart, and I told myself then that I wanted to serve in the military. I did not tell anyone else. This was a secret that I kept inside me until after I had taken the oath many years later. The fall semester before I planned to graduate from law school, I talked to the recruiter who came to my law school, and surreptitiously went to the interviews. When I received word that I was selected, I did not tell anyone. When I went to take the oath, I raised my hand in the recruiting office in front of the recruiter alone and swore to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. This was between me and the country, not an honor to be bestowed upon me or an honor to be bestowed upon my family for raising me well, which of course they did. It was a commitment to my country, a calling.

I suspect that most of you who read this blog will be military members, and most of you likewise were called to duty.  Perhaps others of you will share how you first heard or felt the calling.

Once activiated, as a lawyer what this calling meant to me was that I was responsible for ensuring that the military members who were my clients received the full benefit of their Constitutional rights, that they were honored for their service to their country and treated fairly if they were accused of committing a crime or faced administrative separation. I feel that there is no better way to defend the Constitution than to stand beside a military member in Court, a member who has stood beside his or her country and ensure that his or her rights to due process, to remain silent, to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures are upheld.

With this blog I hope to explore the effectiveness of our Constitution in the military right now. Perhaps we will chat in general sometimes, and perhaps we will talk about specific cases on other occasions. I look forward to sharing my thoughts and to reading the thoughts of others.

In peace,

Daphne Silverman