The Plano East Rotary Club is set to continue its Flags of Honor event Nov. 9-11, which will plant 1,000 flags at Oak Point Park to show gratitude and appreciation for veterans and first responders. Each year, Paul Hendricks, president of the Veterans Center of North Texas, is in attendance to spread awareness on veterans services in Collin County.
Last year, the VCNT saw about 1,080 veterans throughout seven North Texas counties – Collin, Grayson, Cook, Hunt, Fannin, Rockwall and Kaufman. Veterans visit the center with a variety of needs such as affordable housing, financial assistance and financial planning, Hendricks said. But the biggest, most consistent need from veterans is employment.
Hendricks reported many of VCNT’s veteran clients are either unemployed or underemployed.
“We have a lot of our veterans who are working in jobs that make $10-$15 an hour. And the living wage in Collin County is about $27.50 an hour. So if you’re not making $57,000 a year, you’re going to have a very difficult time surviving in Collin County,” Hendricks said. “It’s just as simple as that.”
Hendricks said volunteers work with veterans to understand why they have the job they have now, what kind of job they’d like to do, and then connect them to job certifications, veteran-friendly employers and other employment options to get them where they want to be. Sometimes that means helping them get a second job, or other times showing them a whole new path to success.
According to Paul Chabot, founder of Texas Loves Vets and U.S. Navy Reserves commander, many veterans aren’t aware of all the programs and opportunities available.
“They need to understand, whether they’re veterans or disabled veterans, there are resources for them,” he said.
Many employers in Texas offer preferential points when interviewing veterans, and for any entrepreneurs, he said franchises also offer veterans deep discounts if they want to buy into their own franchise. And once employed, veterans often make great employees and business owners because they carry their military skills of order and discipline into the workplace.
The Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans, supported by Syracuse University, is a 10-day paid course where veterans spend eight hours a day learning how to be business owners. These seminars are located all over the country, Chabot said, and all interested veterans need only apply.
Alongside addressing employment, services like the Veterans Center of North Texas takes a holistic approach. Collin County is home to about 58,000 veterans of all ages, and Chabot said one out of every five of the younger veterans from Afghanistan or Iraq suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Sometimes, mental health can impact a veteran’s future in the workplace, but the first step to addressing a their emotional needs is breaking down the stigma of PTSD, Chabot said.
“It’s not only about getting them a job, but it’s also about letting them know how to get help,” he said.