IMPERIAL — It was a day of commemoration at the Veterans Memorial Hall here Tuesday.
Not only were past, present and future veterans thanked for their service by Imperial County Supervisor Michael Kelley, employers were commended for their efforts to hire veterans.
Tuesday’s event, which coincided with the board’s proclamation of May as “Veteran’s Appreciation Month,” recognized veterans’ service and showed the support they have from the community, said Ed Castillo-Rubio, chairman of the Veteran Employment Committee.
“Appreciation is how veterans feel more at home,” he said.
But appreciation and a support structure weren’t always there for veterans, said Robert Avila, project coordinator of Project Serve Vets.
“And this is one of the biggest lessons learned from the Vietnam era,” he said while noting that now veterans have more resources available.
Project Serve Vets, organized by the Imperial Valley Regional Occupational Program and made available by Workforce Development Board, is one of those resources.
The program provides veterans with training in areas like truck driving, air conditioner technician and even as a turbine technician.
All of these trainings lead to a form of certification, Avila said.
Brawley resident Wilfred Perez is a United States Navy veteran who just finished wind turbine technician training.
The program was “great,” Perez said. It is very extensive and very rigorous, he said, but now he’s certified to fix wind turbines and to rescue operations with turbines if needed.
Perez decided to come into the program after being unemployed for about five years.
He’s still unemployed and “it hasn’t been easy, not easy at all,” Perez said.
But now he’s hopeful that with his new skills he can work on wind turbine projects like the one set for Ocotillo, Perez said.
“I already applied,” he said.
There are about 7,000 to 9,000 veterans in Imperial County alone, according to Rick Partridge from the Disabled Veterans Outreach Program.
Some 1,000 to 1,500 of them are unemployed, he said.
Partridge, a Desert Storm veteran himself, believes that in Imperial County the support available to the unemployed veteran is “tremendous.”
However, the county hasn’t reached 100 percent and, “There’s still a lot of work in progress,” he said.
One hundred percent, Partridge says, is when “every employer in the Valley” gives a veteran priority or at least an interview opportunity.
An organization that seems to be on track in helping unemployed veterans is ARC Imperial Valley.
In fact, they were recognized during the event for their efforts.
ARC employs from fresh veterans to veterans coming from the Vietnam era, said Lorie Weaver, ARC’s director of human resources.
Veterans provide leadership to the organization, she said, and ARC is proud to have veterans work with them.
Staff Writer Alejandro Davila can be reached at 760-337-3445 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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