When I was nearing the end of my second term as the Orange County Supervisor for the Second District in 2014, I started receiving frequent telephone calls from a concerned resident by the name of Dolf Keller. Dolf had attended a few of my speeches to financial planning professionals and we had developed a relationship.
Dolf had a real burden for the veterans in Orange County and felt that complete assistance programs were lacking and that existing organizations focused on their needs were too siloed and not working together as well as they should. Dolf wanted me to consider addressing this need after I concluded my Supervisorial roll and become an executive director of a potential new coordinating council. Well, I decided to first run for State Senate and was elected, so my potential service in this critical niche was not to be.
As Session concluded in mid-September, and I’m now in the District for a few quick weeks, along with developing legislation for next year, I’m taking tours of businesses, state parks, and nonprofits. It’s hard to fit everything in, but one visit that reminded me of Dolf Keller was a tour of the Tierney Center for Veteran Services, operated by Goodwill in the city of Tustin.
Dolf, we sadly lost you in February of last year. My wife and I enjoyed being with your friends at your memorial service. Dolf, I want you to know that your vision has been achieved. Rest in peace, my friend (http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/losangelesregister/obituary.aspx?pid=177772822).
With that, I have to share the good news and the OC Register kindly published the editorial submission below. Thank you to all the veterans in Orange County who saw the need, developed a vision to meet it, succeeded in implementing it and have made it a role model for the rest of the nation. It is a good news day.
Tomorrow is Veterans Day. Allow me to wish you a solemn and respectful day as you raise your flags in front of your homes, attend a memorial service, wear a poppy, or find some way to give thanks for those who served our nation.
INVITATION: Please join us to listen to noted author Chris Epting as he speaks on the subject of “The Day the War Hit The Shore.”
Orange County incurred civilian casualties stateside during WW II, an extremely rare occurrence. A military plane crashed at the site we will be at, which killed four Orange County residents. This tragic episode has been lost over time, but has many valuable lessons to this day. We will have a very special veteran who is related to the survivors. This will be a unique historical event. For a hint, see http://www.ocregister.com/2016/06/26/huntington-beach-remembers-1943-military-plane-crash-that-killed-four-children/.
Please attend your traditional Veterans Day ceremonies at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month on Saturday. If you want an afternoon break, join us at 3 p.m. We’ll meet at 21851 Newland Street in Huntington Beach. There should be some parking spaces available at the neighboring Wetlands Wildlife Center. Just put a note on your dashboard noting that you are attending the Veterans Day Ceremony.
BONUS: The photo at the bottom shows me and my wife attending one of the three Veterans Day ceremonies last November 11th that was taken by the OC Register. If you enjoy playing “finding Waldo,” then stop reading now. If you need an assist, we’re at the top right and I’ve donned my coat and wearing a white business shirt.
Goodwill expands help for our local veterans
With controversies over the American flag and the national anthem still roiling our country, here’s an issue on which all of us can come together: Helping our brave veterans.
Last summer the Orange County Rescue Mission opened its Tustin Veterans Outpost, two fourplexes for housing. The nonprofit community is stepping up.
As Veterans Day is approaching, I toured the Tierney Center for Veteran Services, also in Tustin, which is run by Goodwill of Orange County. Its professional staff focus on helping veterans get the services they need, from job training and placement, to housing and help with mental health.
Our men and women returning to the private sector, many from combat assignments in Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries, have fought for our freedom. They deserve not only the respect of everyone, but the best and most rapid path back to full civilian life.
I talked with three recent veterans attending the center’s 10-day orientation classes. They said it was jam-packed with help for getting them a job — and just the right length.
As of Oct. 26, so far this year the Tierney Center has placed 238 veterans in full-time jobs. The average starting wage is $25.04 an hour, double the $12.50 an hour of a year ago. The state minimum wage is currently $10.50 an hour. Placement efforts have shifted to concentrate on higher-paying jobs.
That $25.04 an hour works out to $52,000 a year. It’s a good start toward making more in high cost-of-living Orange County, where a family income of $84,450 or less puts one in the low-income category, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Promotions after that first job will bring higher salaries.
Vets also get help finding lodging, especially needed in the tight local housing market. Homeless vets are given special attention to get them off the street.
One program I noticed is a Manufacturing Technology Boot Camp that will run from Jan. 2 through Jan. 27, 2018. I long have championed keeping taxes and regulations on manufacturing firms reasonable so they stay here and continue to provide Californians with high-paying jobs. These companies make everything from specialized car parts and medical devices to the latest computer processors.
The Boot Camp teaches vets how to fabricate parts on the latest milling machines and lathes. Within a month students graduate and are quickly pulling down a paycheck. I’m pretty sure this particular Boot Camp doesn’t include a drill sergeant screaming, “Drop and give me 20 push-ups!”
I also asked about help for the veterans’ spouses and children, who also have sacrificed for our country, and often have to deal with their hero’s readjustment to civilian life and the consequences of surviving combat, such as PTSD — post-traumatic stress disorder.
The staff replied families are also helped with counseling, schooling and training. That’s one more thing that has made the Tierney Center a regional and national leader helping our vets.
Other services include a Veteran Emergency Fund and a separate Veteran Student Emergency Fund, as well as advice on where to get legal, health and other assistance. The center coordinates with the Veterans Administration and other government and private agencies.
The center is housed in a large warehouse where Goodwill processes the many thousands of donations of books, clothing, appliances and just about everything that goes on sale in their 25 retail stores throughout Orange County. Along with individual cash donations, the stores fund all of Goodwill’s charity efforts for vets and others.
By the way, the center is named for its major donors, Tom and Elizabeth Tierney. As Tom said at an Oct. 27 event for Goodwill supporters, the center “is for the invisible people that are seeking help.”
I recently watched the Ken Burns series “The Vietnam War,” which brought back memories of the years in which I grew up. The last U.S. combat troops left in 1973, when I was 17.
So I was interested in a graphic shown during the tour by OC Goodwill President and CEO Frank Talarico and his staff. It showed how the number of veterans from the era of the Iraq, Afghanistan and other recent wars has surpassed the vets from the era of the Vietnam War. The numbers include those who both served in a war and those in non-war assignments.
Assistance had been lacking for a time. But Orange County is blessed to now have the Tierney Center and the Tustin Veterans Outpost as two of many outstanding resources for our veterans.
Welcome home, troops. We are proud of you. Orange Countians are here for you as you return to civilian life.
John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, represents the 37th District in the California Senate.
People gather for the dedication of Heroes Hall, an old barracks building being converted in a museum at the OC Fairgrounds in Costa Mesa, on Friday, November 11, 2016. (Photo by Nick Agro, Orange County Register/SCNG)
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