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JBLM: Murray Keynotes Ceremony for Military Grads of Microsoft Training Program

Dec 02 2013

First graduating class of military graduates of Microsoft IT training program inspired by Murray’s ‘VOW to Hire Heroes Act’

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray, a senior member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, delivered the keynote speech at a graduation ceremony to honor the first graduating class of military students from Microsoft’s Software & Systems Academy pilot program at Saint Martin’s University in Lacey, WA.  The 22 graduates, currently active duty service members from JBLM, will be hired into entry-level roles as software testers at Microsoft or Launch Consulting.  The Microsoft Academy was inspired by Senator Murray’s “VOW to Hire Heroes Act.” 

Key excerpts from Senator Murray’s speech:

“As we stand here today unemployment among recent veterans is way down - on par with the rest of the country, post-9/11 veterans are being hired at a faster rate than non-veterans, and at JBLM, where 45% of service members once participated in transition assistance programs - 90% of the men and women transitioning to civilian life are getting the help they deserve.”

“Now, these programs have been a huge success - but they’re only part of the puzzle. Because no matter how much we do to prepare our veterans for the workplace - we can’t succeed in fully transitioning them to civilian life without strong, lasting partnerships with businesses, labor organizations,  colleges, and universities.

“And that’s why this program and this ceremony today are so special - because right here, we have top-ranking military leaders from JBLM, executives from Microsoft - one of our nation’s most successful businesses, and educators from Saint Martin’s University all working together to create a seamless, successful transition for men and women who’ve worn the uniform. I can tell you - when I wrote the VOW Act, this is exactly what I hoped and envisioned for all our nation’s veterans...and let’s also give credit where it’s due: because the transition program at JBLM is setting the standard for military bases around the country. That’s something for Col. Hodges to be proud of, but it’s also something that Saint Martin’s, Microsoft, and all of us in the Puget Sound can be proud of.”

“Let’s take a good look at the accomplishments of the men and women here today and replicate it, not only for every transitioning service member at JBLM, but for all of those in Kitsap, Everett, Spokane, and across the country.”

Full text of Senator Murray’s remarks below:

“Thank you so much, Dr. Heynderickx, for that introduction, and thank you for hosting us here at Saint Martin’s.

“I’d like to first thank Colonel Hodges, the Base Commander at JBLM - he has been so instrumental in making today a reality.

“I’d also like to thank our partners from Microsoft and Launch Consulting who are here today.

“And most importantly, I’d like to thank the friends, family, and colleagues who are all here to support the service men and women we’re honoring today.

“All of us - whether we’re business owners, educators, or elected officials - are working hard to support your sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, and moms and dads who serve in the military, but there is no greater support structure for veterans and members of the military than their families and loved ones….so before we honor these graduates - I also want to thank all of you: for supporting them  and for the sacrifices you’ve made, too, to make today possible.

“And you know, speaking with all of you here today is really a special moment for me. I’ve been in the US Senate for more than 20 years now. I’ve lived around military families here in Washington state for my entire life, and I’m the daughter of a World War II veteran, so, speaking with veterans, service members, and their families is something I’m used to.

“But throughout my career, and really, throughout my entire life...I’ve mostly seen what veterans and their families go through when they don’t have access to the care they need after serving, when they don’t have support and opportunities to start new lives as a civilians, and when they don’t have support from the communities and institutions that make up the places they call home.

“So today - really - is one of the very few opportunities I’ve had to stand with members of our military, veterans, and their families, to celebrate something we’re doing right.

“Now - everyone here knows well - probably many of you know firsthand - that military service is tough. It’s not for the faint of heart…but transitioning from military to civilian life isn’t easy, either.

“And I really believe that right now, we’re living in a defining moment when it comes to the treatment of our nation’s veterans and helping current service members transition out. It’s a time when our older veterans population – including so many of our Vietnam veterans – are increasingly relying on VA care.

“But we’re also at a pivotal point - an opportunity we cannot afford to miss -  to properly care for an entire generation of post-9/11 veterans, who have endured a decade of repeated deployments, unbelievable stress on their families,  and the visible and invisible wounds of war.

“That challenge - to meet the needs of these brave men and women not decades down the road, but from the moment they begin the process of transitioning to civilian life - is truly one of our nation’s great tasks at hand.

“And right here, in the backyard of our country’s most important military bases - all of you know that better than most.

“Since 9/11, nearly 3 million Americans have served in the military, and every year 6,000 men and women from JBLM transition to civilian life, and combined with others from across the country, 13,000 veterans begin their civilian lives here in Washington state each year...and each one them faces a job market that is uncertain and highly-competitive.

“It’s a problem that they face along with millions of other Americans...but for veterans, many of the barriers to employment are unique.

“Most of these men and women have spent the last decade being shuttled back and forth to war-zones half a world away…

“And when it’s time to make big changes and start new careers the road home isn’t always smooth, the red tape is often long, and the transition from the battlefield to the workplace is never easy.

“So for too long, veterans have often been left behind by their peers who didn’t make the same sacrifices for their nation at a critical time in their lives.

“For too long, many veterans haven’t realized the skills they possess and their value in the workplace.

“And for too long, they’ve been discouraged by a job market that is unfamiliar to them after their service.

“But all of us here know that’s not right.

“We know the men and women here today and all our veterans have the leadership ability, discipline, and technical skills to not only find work, but excel in growing industries and jobs of the future.

“You know, a few years ago, I became the Chair of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, and one of the first things I did was criss-cross Washington state to different worker retraining programs, VA facilities, and veterans halls to hear first hand from veterans what challenges they were facing.

“And over a few months, I had some heartbreaking and frustrating conversations.

“I heard from veterans who said they no longer wrote that they’re a veteran on their resume because of the stigma they believed employers attach to the invisible wounds of war.

“I heard from medics who returned home from treating battlefield wounds and couldn’t get certifications to be an EMT or to drive an ambulance.

“I talked to veterans who told me that the military spent countless hours getting them the skills to do their job in the field, but little time teaching them how to translate those skills into the workplace.

“Sometimes - the problems were very complicated. Other times - they were simple issues.

“But what struck me the most was that more often than not - these issues were preventable.

“We were patting our veterans on the back to thank them for their service, but then we just sent them out into the job market alone - without the basic help they needed.

“And it showed.

“Double-digit unemployment for veterans was the norm, the status quo. In 2011, the average unemployment rate for returning veterans was over 12 percent. And one out of every four veterans between the ages of 20 and 24 was without a job.

“So I got started working with members of both parties - Republicans and Democrats - to write the VOW to Hire Heroes Act - which, I’m proud to say, became the law of the land just a few months later.

“The VOW Act, as we call it, created ways to ease the transition from the battlefield to the working world.

“For the first time, it required broad job skills training for every service member as they leave the military as part of the military’s Transition Assistance Program.

“It allowed service members to begin the federal employment process prior to separation and have a truly seamless transition from the military to jobs in government.

“And it required the Department of Labor to take a hard look at what military skills and training should be translatable into the civilian sector in order to make it simpler for our veterans to get the licenses and certifications they need.

“Most importantly - it helped military bases across the country, like JBLM, start their own programs to help service men and women transition.

“And as we stand here today unemployment among recent veterans is way down - on par with the rest of the country, post-9/11 veterans are being hired at a faster rate than non-veterans, and at JBLM, where 45% of service members once participated in transition assistance programs - 90% of the men and women transitioning to civilian life are getting the help they deserve.

“Now, these programs have been a huge success - but they’re only part of the puzzle.

“Because no matter how much we do to prepare our veterans for the workplace - we can’t succeed in fully transitioning them to civilian life without strong, lasting partnerships with businesses, labor organizations,  colleges, and universities.

“And that’s why this program and this ceremony today are so special - because right here, we have top-ranking military leaders from JBLM, executives from Microsoft - one of our nation’s most successful businesses, and educators from Saint Martin’s University all working together to create a seamless, successful transition for men and women who’ve worn the uniform.

“I can tell you - when I wrote the VOW Act, this is exactly what I hoped and envisioned for all our nation’s veterans...

...and let’s also give credit where it’s due: because the transition program at JBLM is setting the standard for military bases around the country.

“That’s something for Col. Hodges to be proud of, but it’s also something that Saint Martin’s, Microsoft, and all of us in the Puget Sound  can be proud of.

“Trust me - I’m going to brag about this to my colleagues back in Washington, DC.

“So, to the twenty-two graduates here today and to your families - congratulations - you deserve all the opportunities and successes that lay ahead of you.

“And for the rest of us - let’s take a good look at the accomplishments of the men and women here today and replicate it , not only for every transitioning service member at JBLM, but for all of those in Kitsap, Everett,  Spokane,  and across the country.

“So thank you again - I’m thrilled to be here as the first class graduates from this program, but I’m even more thrilled that this is only the beginning.

“Thank you.”