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20120224_HeroesOpportunityFair_CAB_73MISSION — The Greater Mission Chamber of Commerce was all a buzz Tuesday morning as the chamber, Workforce Solutions, local veterans and community members came together to offer services to veterans in the area.

The job fair was tailored to veterans with local, state and federal entities sharing resources that were specifically available to veterans.

Entities present included South Texas College, University of Texas-Pan American, University of Phoenix, Mission ACE Club, Small Business Administration, Veteran Affairs, Texas Veteran Leadership Program, American Legion 101, Catholic War Veterans, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Texas Department of Public Safety, among others.

“I am very glad to bring this event to you all, offering services to the individuals in our community that have served us for so long,” said Matt Z. Ruszczak, chamber CEO and president. “It’s time that we also show appreciation to those serving that have come back.”

Cuellar, who visited Iraq and Afghanistan a few months ago, said one major concern to soldiers he visited with was how would they get back into the workforce.

“That’s something we should recognize,” said Cuellar. “It’s not only medical needs that they need, it’s not only the housing and it’s not only the education. When it comes to employment, that opportunity is so important. A job means dignity.”Z

Cuellar said when looking for a job, veterans have been highly trained.

“Think about the skills that these men and women are bringing back,” he said. “Prioritize these men and women because they’re coming back with their special workforce skills that can be used to improve.”

Cuellar said he hoped other cities would follow with job fairs for veterans. San Antonio will be looking at what’s being done in the Valley to say thank you to their hometown heroes, said Cuellar.

Workforce Solutions CEO Yvonne Gonzalez said veterans were vital to the community.

Gonzalez said the national average of veterans without jobs is quite high and is higher than 30 percent for young veterans between ages 18 to 24.

“That is not right,” said Gonzalez, adding that Workforce Solutions is helping to solve that issue.

Gonzalez said veterans get a priority service with Workforce Solutions including a 48-hour time period before a job is announced to the public.

Workforce Solutions is pushing local community colleges and university to take part in College Credit for Heroes, a program that gives credit for classes depending on the military experience of the veteran. For example, Gonzalez said, if a veteran worked for four years in a nursing atmosphere while enlisted, the veteran could receive certain credentials and college credits based on that experience.

Veteran Xavier Hernandez said the job fair gave him an opportunity to network with other veterans in the area and fix an issue. Hernandez recently moved to the area from Sinton and had been having a difficult time getting his medications and other services.

He was able to meet with someone at the fair that explained the problem to him and fixed it onsite to make sure he was registered as a veteran in the right location. He was registered to the San Antonio medical area.

Hernandez, who wasn’t looking for a job, said the fair gave him an opportunity to meet with organizations that can help him cope with his post traumatic stress and find volunteer opportunities where he can work with other veterans.

Hernandez served in Afghanistan while in the Marines and has been back ssince 2004.

Roy Aleman with Veterans of Foreign Wars said the event was also a reminder to veterans that all they need to do is get involved.

“There are many opportunities for veterans,” said Aleman. “All you have to do is get involved.”

Aleman, a younger veteran himself, said the younger generation is coming in to offer help for fellow veterans.

“Let us fight for you now,” he said.

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