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Honors go to those who hire vets or support them while on active duty.



TRIBUNE PHOTO: PETER WONG - Cameron Smith, Oregon Department of Veterans Affairs director, at the Northwest Military Employer Summit on June 3 at Camp Withycombe in Clackamas.Honors have gone to several businesses and government agencies that have made special efforts to hire veterans or support employees when they have been called to active military duty.

They were saluted June 3 at the seventh annual Northwest Military Employer Summit, sponsored by the Pacific Northwest Defense Coalition at Camp Withycombe in Clackamas.

“The National Guard is especially reliant upon you, as community business leaders, to assist us,” said Maj. Gen. Michael Stencel, who as Oregon adjutant general commands the Army and Air guard units. under Gov. Kate Brown. “Our readiness depends directly upon the support you provide.”

Many of the 8,100 in Oregon’s combined forces have been called to active duty more than once — and those veterans are among the 926,000 in National Guard and Reserve units who have served since the East Coast terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. An estimated 27,000 are still on active military service.

Retired Maj. Gen. Paul Mock, national chairman of Employer Support of the Guard & Reserve, said they have been part of the largest military call-up in U.S. history.

“Having secure employment back home — the ability to know they will have a job when they get back home — is really important,” said Mock, who also is a retired Los Angeles police lieutenant.

According to a March release from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national unemployment rate for all veterans is 4.6 percent — the lowest in eight years — but the 2015 rate for post-2001 veterans is at 5.8 percent. However, the rate for the post-2001 group is 1.4 percentage points lower than in 2014.

“We have been at war for 15 years,” said state Rep. Paul Evans, D-Monmouth, an Air Force reservist who has seen active duty in Afghanistan and Kuwait. “That fact does not necessarily register with some people.”

TRIBUNE PHOTO: PETER WONG - Oregon National Guard Sgt. Duane Reno performed June 3 at Camp Withycombe during Northwest Military Employer Summit.The Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office is one of 30 national finalists for the Employer Support Freedom Award, which the U.S. secretary of defense will award to large and small employers — the break point is 500 employees — and public-sector employers. A maximum of 15 awards will be presented.

Sheriff Craig Roberts was nominated for his sponsorship of a 2015 law that did away with a prohibition on government employers paying differentials to employees on active duty.

Providence Health & Services, based in Portland, received the Seven Seals Award for working with veterans to translate their military experience onto resumes that showed the skills they could offer to potential employers.

“It’s not that veterans lack amazing skills, it’s not that they are not battle-tested, and it’s not that they are unwilling to work,” said U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., in presenting the award.

Other awards went to these businesses and agencies:

• Pro Patria Award: Kuni Automotive of Vancouver, Wash.

• Above and Beyond Awards, for exceeding legal requirements for support of active-duty military members and their families: JP Morgan Chase & Co., SureID Inc. of Hillsboro, and Clackamas Fire District No. 1.

• Patriot Awards: Karl Koenig, president of the Professional Firefighters Association of Clackamas County, and David Scheirman, division chief, Clackamas Fire District No. 1.

• Community Purple Award: Returning Veterans Project, which attempts to match health professionals with veterans.

• Special recognition: Shelly Parini, an official of Clackamas Community College.

Oregon has an estimated 325,000 military veterans, most of which are outside the federal VA system. The Oregon Department of Veterans Affairs — led by Cameron Smith, a Marine veteran of the Iraq War — does coordinate a network of veterans’ service officers in 34 Oregon counties to provide assistance and help veterans obtain federal benefits.

Evans said state lawmakers have taken some steps to anticipate future demands, such as added staffing for the Oregon Department of Veterans Affairs and a Nov. 8 ballot measure to earmark 1.5 percent of Oregon Lottery proceeds for veterans’ services.

“As long as there are veterans who do not have proper health care or adequate subsistence for living, our job will never be done,” said state Rep. Sal Esquivel, R-Medford, a Navy veteran of the Vietnam War.

Among other participants were Brad Avakian, the state labor commissioner, and Dave Hunt of Gladstone, former Oregon House speaker who now is president of the Pacific Northwest Defense Coalition and officiated the program.

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