Update 7: Bill Simon, CEO of Walmart US. Imagine, you're the CEO of one of America's largest companies. Here to 'ask something of the Legion'. He served, and says it left a lasting impression on him. One surprising statement- how people line up at midnight at the end of the month, to shop for food at midnight when the electronic benefits hit their cards, and they can get formula and diapers. Says the economy is bad- not Pearl Harbor or 9/11 bad, but it's 'man made' problems. They are solvable. He says they will open 100 new stores, hire 15k new employees, and concentrate on veterans. Claims that they are the largest employer of veterans in the US (likely, given that they are so large. However, I know Home Depot and others do as well.) He introduced a former Army captain that served in Iraq who manages a store in Streamwood, IL and does very well. Says they love veterans- they are smart, educated, and team players. Have performance under stress in their backgrounds. They have a website, www.careerswithamission.com, that allows veterans to get into their job pipeline quicker.
Update 6: Rep Nancy Pelosi is here to address us. Surprisingly, she's a fairly strong vet supporter, whatever you may think of the rest of her politics. (go back to my previous post on how they can support vets and yet look at legislation that destroys the rest of the country. The response is somewhat tepid, but polite. She's congratulating Chet Edwards, former congressman, for his distinguished service medal. So far, she's only thanking others for stuff they've done. Yes, Chet was a Democrat. She's now estolling the 'call to service' of the Legion, and its members. She's now talking about Marine Capt. Brian Stand, and how he 'won' a Silver Star for his actions. Capt Stand wanted to find a way to honor those who fell, and served with him. She's showing how this work is in conjunction with the 'Hire Heroes Act' that is going forward. Also, how 'we' have demanded that the USG use it's contract power to work to hire veteran companies in contracting (as it should). Another act, the 'Make It In America' act, works to prevent jobs from going overseas- 'green energy' jobs. (Well, we know how well THAT works.) As I expected, she's going into President Obama's initiatives, and how his are 'better public policy' going forward. She's the third person this morning that has mentioned 'moving America forward' in her comments. 'America's veterans will not be short-changed' in fixing our budget, she says. And, addressing how 'we will not be whole until every American who fought overseas can come home and have a job.' It's going to be interesting how these comments will fit in with the rest of the agenda they have once they return to work after the Labor Day break.
Update 5: Rep Jeff Miller of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, and Chairman of the committee, is now addressing. He works closely with Sec'y Shinseki, as you can imagine. He opens his comments with how, 2 days after the Chinook attack that took the 30 forces out, he was on the tarmac in Baghram at the memorial ceremony that occurred there. He's the first Republican to address the Legion so far. He's talking about trimming the budget, and that 1.2 trillion needs cut asap, but 'the miltary and the veterans that have served it will remain one of the highest priorites we have'. He's now onto the 'veterans back to work' line as well. 'No veteran who returns from service deserves to be standing in an unemployment line'. Another nice platitude that, given the economy, is not likely to work well. He terms this the 'VOW Act' (Veterans Opportunity to Work). He does, rightly, state that 'government does NOT creat jobs, but the environment for jobs.' The website for this info is www.veterans.house.gov.
Update 4: Sec'y Shinseki is now preparing to address the Legion. This is the third address I've heard from him at the Legion. As TAH says, he's the king of the Black Beret. Seems he cannot get by that little 'misfit'. OOH- someone misspelled his name on the slide in front of the entire floor. Oops! (they spelled it 'Shineski') I'm waiting to hear something 'new' - he's pushing the Presidents effort to give tax credits for hiring vets- of about 9k per person from what was said here. He's pushing a veteran's preference in hiring initiative. To hire/train 100k vets into the workforce; and to increase the percentage of veterans hired at VA to 40% of all hires. He wants to continue reducing VA backlog of cases, get more homeless vets off the street, and get more and better care for vets with PTSD and TBI. 5 new VA hospitals under construction, and 30 new patient facilities. He's rattling off stuff faster than we can keep up with and track as to what he's saying. I'm going to have to get his prepared remarks, plus notes, to get this tracked and on here... UPDATE: he claims that by 2015, they will have that 'visual' of homeless vets sleeping on grates 'gone'. This one, I don't believe. While it's a very noble goal, and is needed, one has to remember that many, if not most, of those 'homeless vets' have two problems- one is many are not even VETS. They only claim it in order to try to build sympathy and get money. Second, many have such problems with substance abuse and mental health, they cannot adequately be helped. VA is developing 5 core new values: Integrity, commitment, advocacy, respect, and excellence (I CARE). These ideals is where he's trying to steer the VA.
Update 3: They are playing a video provided by SecState Hillary Clinton. She could not join the convention, but sent a video to address the floor with. She's thanking the soldiers, and the Legion, for their service and dedication. A short video.
Next, is the US Chamber of Commerce. A retired Marine LtCol - Kevin Schmiegel is the representative. He served 20 years active duty, and retired 2 years ago. Says he still misses it (that, I can understand) and understand what the Legion means. Says he is here to describe a program on what IS being done to help those coming home- 'Hiring Our Heros'. To help in 100 communities across the country. He cites 12m veterans in the workforce; 1m are unemployed. 160k leave the service and return to the workforce EVERY year- not counting the reserve forces that return from deployments. The unemployment rate for current vets is 13.4%. If that rate is as 'different' as the overall unemployment rate, then we're looking at a better than 17% rate for Iraq/Afghanistan veterans (some sources say the overall rate is not 9.1 but 13.4%) Veterans have directly transferable skills, too. The chamber, he says, has a civic responsibility to ensure veterans get employed. They've conducted 19 fairs across the country, of the 100 communities planned. They do plan to be in the 81 other cities by next March. Chicago had 1200 veterans, and placed 200 of them. Better than nothing, but not quite enough especially in a large city. They are working on plans to expand it to several hundred cities by 2012 and thru 2013.
Update 2: Cong. Tim Walz is here addressing- seems the only 'legion' here is the legion of politicos who want to address the convention. He's talking about visiting Walter Reed and the soldiers there. Rep. Walz is a retired Sergeant Major, and how, during the visit, a soldier commented "sorry to hear about your demotion to Congress, sir..'' He's getting animated about conduct in the Congress, and how they need to hold themselves to a higher standard. A standard the Legion and our veterans hold themselves to. ''We could not hold a vote today and agree it's Wednesday.'' Well, one problem is, this Congressman is the one with a bit of an 'exaggerated' record- claiming to 'serve supporting Afghanistan' when he was serving, actually, in Italy. Great service, but he treads a thin line on what he says...
Update 1: Ms Godin, the Holocaust survivor is speaking now. Survivor of both the camps and a death march, she's now relating what she saw as a young girl at the time. Speaking of the ghettos, of preparing, somehow, for the family to be separated. She was in 4 different labor camps, after losing her father during the 'kinder selection', when they pulled children out away from families.
Original Post: We're here again, in the giant hall of the convention center in Minneapolis. Today, as in yesterday, we'll have live-blogging as it happens. Also like yesterday, we'll have a plethora of speakers and visitors coming in to address the convention. Scheduled is Rep. Nancy Pelosi later this morning. Another interesting one will be Holocaust survivor Nesse Godin, who should provide an interesting talk. Visiting
us again will be Sec'y Eric Shinseki, who makes his annual appearance to report on DVA changes.
Miss America Needs Help! Last night, we were at a reception for the Commander when I had a chance to chat with Miss America Teresa Scanlan. I asked her if she had been overseas to see the troops in either Iraq or Afghanistan yet. She told me that no, they had not even scheduled anything, and wasn't aware of any request to do so. Ok guys, here is your chance- I imagine ONE unit over there is willing to 'sponsor' a visit by such a lovely lady as Miss America! Who's gonna step up? I have escorted 2 Miss Americas in theater, and arrange visits for them to troops. It's worth it.