“Unemployment to this Veteran hits home”
by Ken Smith
I was sent an email by a veteran who had lost his job last summer, and has been searching hard for a place to find work. His skills are many and they include experience with start up companies, contract negotiations, team building, strategic partnerships, business managment, lead generation and another dozen or so skills that in my mind made him a quality candidate for any sales position at the very least. This guy has shown me in our email discussions how he has beat the streets looking for work, almost any kind of work and yet he has found nothing.
His prior work had paid him very well for his work (he was earning $150k per year) and it came with a medical plan that cost him $600 or so per month for his family, and he also had a form of a 401k and three weeks vacation. Then the bottom fell out of the job he had, and he and about 15 others were let go. He was a senior project manager and had maybe 50-60 people that he managed.
Now, he gets $550 per week unemployment compensation, has a mortgage of $2900, has a new medical insurance cobra payment of $1350 per month and all the usual bills that we all have. His wife was working up till christmas and now, she too was let go from her job.
What was interesting to me was that the email from this vet wasn’t someone crying on my shoulder about how bad he had it, quite the opposite.
Here is the email.
Ken: I regularly read your stories here at VT and really like your writing style. You write almost like I talk and that makes it easier for me to understand the concepts of your posts. I am a vet like you, (I just turned 60 a month ago) and I lost my job In May of 2011, a job that I loved and now I wake up every day with a new challenge. I wonder if you could steer me to a Veterans group that could use a volunteer to help them with raising money or any kind of unpaid project management work just to keep me busy and sharp. I have experience in grant writing and leadership and I want to help other veterans even as this nightmare continues for me.
Like many other unemployed Americans, I spend a buck a week and buy a lottery ticket and go to bed that night dreaming that I won. Its one of the only things that allows me to fall asleep next to my wife who is crying into her pillow worried about everything. I know your connected to many veteran charities and they are always looking for someone like me who is a doer and not a taker. Can you point me in the right direction?
Now, I am sure that this guy is not alone out there today. I am sure there are thousands of vets just like him and some have it far worse than he does. I think you all get the idea. I was wondering if the readers would join with me in promoting a new linkedin group I started today called “Veterans Looking for Work” and I ask each of you to share that Linkedin group with anyone who is a vet looking for work or an employer looking for quality talent.
We all have to help each other, right?
For more than twenty-five years Ken Smith has been a leading advocate for veterans. A combat Vietnam veteran, Ken served during 1971-72 as a paramedic and an infantry squad leader with Delta Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry, in the 196th Light Infantry Brigade, Americal Division. After his discharge, Ken continued his work as a paramedic in New England. On the streets of Boston he encountered growing numbers of homeless Vietnam veterans, and he became determined to both assist them and draw attention to their plight.
In 1989, Ken founded the New England Shelter for Homeless Veterans, located in a former VA hospital at 17 Court Street in downtown Boston. One of the first facilities designed for homeless veterans and now a national model, the shelter has served over 35,000 of America’s veterans who, for whatever reason, find themselves living on the streets.
In 1992 Ken was awarded Point of Light #142 by President George H. W. Bush, and later that same year received the AMVETS Silver Helmet Award, considered the “Oscar” for American veterans. As one of America’s foremost veterans service organizations, AMVETS (or American Veterans) has a proud history of assisting veterans and sponsoring numerous programs that serve our country and its citizens. Ken was awarded this honor along with Peter Coors, with whom he still maintains a personal friendship.
Over the years Ken has appeared on many national media programs including Good Morning America, Prime Time Live, ABC News, CBS News, Larry King Live, CNN, 60 Minutes, and The Geraldo Show. He has been quoted in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune, The Miami Herald, and numerous international newspapers, magazines, and websites. In 1992, Ken had the distinction of addressing both the Republican and Democratic National Conventions as a keynote speaker on the subject of veterans.
Ken recently left his last assignment with the Military Order of the Purple Heart Service Foundation, where he was the chief technology architect of the Veteran’s Vocational Technical Institute, Purple Heart Car Donation program, Purple Heart Call Center, Purple Heart Radio, Purple Heart Tech Support, Purple Heart Services, and over thirty new Purple Heart websites. Ken Smith provided the vision and has overseen the implementation of innovative, virtual, work-at-home training programs for veterans with combat disabilities. Ken has designed, upgraded, and supervised the integration and installation of Purple Heart Service Foundations computer and telephony systems, upgrading features from legacy POTS phones to SIP-trunked communications systems including establishing new VPN networks for teams of remote virtual employees.
An adventure sports enthusiast, Ken enjoys extreme skiing, competitive sailing, flying, and travel. He has traveled extensively worldwide, delivering his positive message to the veterans of other countries that a paraplegic veteran of the United States suffers the same as a paraplegic veteran of India; that an amputee veteran of Nepal suffers as much as an amputee veteran of France. Ken’s mentor was Harold Russell, the two-time Academy Award winner who starred in the 1946 film Best Years of Our Lives. A World War II veteran, on D-Day, June 6th, 1944, Harold lost both of his hands. This ghastly misfortune did not stop him, and he went on to become the chairman of the President’s Committee for People with Disabilities. For over fifty years he served US presidents from Truman to Clinton. Ken was humbled and grateful when Harold agreed to serve as the best man at Ken’s wedding.
Ken has been instrumental in the planning stages for the Veterans Workshop, a new nationwide veterans’ advocacy group building a new “Veterans Hotline, and the development of special programs for those who have lost their sight or their hearing, or who have suffered spinal cord injury, as a result of their military experience. The Veterans Workshop provides a forum where new technology and advancements in the fields of prosthetic and orthotic solutions, many designed by Ken, are shared along with virtual training and employment programs.
A 1970 graduate of De La Salle Academy in Newport, Rhode Island, for the past twenty-five years Ken has continued his education with extensive college courses in computer technology and related social service fields. He resides in his native state of Rhode Island with his wife and children.