When U.S. Army Veteran Luci Morales returned home from serving in Iraq, she found herself depressed and struggling to get the services she needed. “I had so many appointments that I had to follow up because of my injuries, that I run the other way,” she says about first visit to her local Veterans Affairs office. “It was really overwhelming.”
Morales says she received a wheelchair, a walker, and a cane that day to address her physical injuries, but that wasn’t all she needed at that time in her life. She believes she could have been able to assimilate back to civilian life sooner, had she had the emotional support to deal with the ins and outs of the system. Today, Morales is a Veterans Support Specialist at the Veteran Peer Access Network (VPAN), District 5, operated by JVS SoCal. VPAN connects Veterans, regardless of discharge status, and their family members to community resources. She says that when she learned that she could earn a living providing guidance to other Veterans, she was thrilled. “I know exactly how it feels,” she told us during the Veterans Job and Resource Fair held in Ontario, California, last month. “Coming from the military where they tell you where to go, what to eat, how to dress, to then [ask yourself] ‘what do I do?’, ‘Where do I go?’, ‘How do I get a job?’ — it’s very hard!” she added. Helping other veterans was just what she needed to feel that her experiences during and after her service are truly valued.
VPAN is just one of the many programs our organization operates that not only help Veterans by offering services but makes it a priority to hire former military members. That is why the U.S. Department of Labor has awarded our Veterans Services team with the HIRE Vets Gold Medallion for three years in a row. This prestigious award is a national effort instituted by the HIRE Vets Act of 2017 to recognize employer efforts to recruit, employ, and retain veterans. It will be announced this week, leading to the commemoration of Veterans Day.
Video: Watch a recap of the Veterans Job and Resource Fair held in Ontario, California on October 22, 2021
JVS SoCal also ensures that other Southern California employers also hire veterans by organizing events like the Veterans Job and Resource Fair in Ontario where we met Luci Morales who says these efforts can be a lifeline for individuals like her who can become depressed and fall through the cracks. “We need this” she says, “to know that our community needs us, it pushes us to realize there is a lot left in us.”
JVS SoCal Team Members during the Veterans Job and Resource Fair held in Ontario, California
JVS SoCal Veterans team members and supporters were recognized by Congresswoman Norma Torrez during the Ontario Job and Resource Fair