OPINION: Veterans: Your service makes ours possible

Published 8:36 am Tuesday, October 26, 2021

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By Jeffrey McIntyre

Each year on November 11, we honor military veterans—those in our communities who have served in the United States Armed Forces. Perhaps this year, you will partake in a Veterans Day parade, post something thoughtful to social media and even tell a Veteran you know “thank you for your service”.

This year with thousands of troops returning home from Afghanistan and other deployments, we have an opportunity and—I would say—an obligation to do more than simply express our gratitude. We need to repay their sacrifices by doing our part to make sure they have sustainable lives back at home.

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, each year, nearly 200,000 service members transition from the military back to their civilian communities. They join the more than 19 million Americans who identify as Veterans (approximately 2 million Texans), many of whom rely on a second career after their military service. But it is not as easy as sending out a resume for these people.

Over two-thirds of today’s Veterans report difficulties adjusting to civilian life and said that they do not know where to go or who to contact to get help. Additionally, Veterans face complex barriers in their transition from military service including inadequate financial resources, expiration of benefits and issues related to wellness or disability. The physical and mental toll that deployment can take is a sacrifice with which I think we can all sympathize.

And, despite these challenges, the fact is that Veterans contribute greatly to business and community through their uniquely honed mix of work ethic, leadership and resilience. Many have received extensive training in the military and possess valuable technical skills, leadership abilities, and numerous soft skills including time management, team orientation and a strong work ethic, which are in high demand by employers.

We are one of those employers. As the president of Texas operations within SouthWest Water Company, which employs many across the state—including around ten percent who have served our country—I can say that Veterans are incredibly valuable members of our team. With careers in water and wastewater systems, they are continuing their public service by working to provide and ensure safe, reliable water service for their community. We are honored to offer careers in water and wastewater that are stable with good salaries and benefits—with solid prospects for the future since people will always need access to water and infrastructures are perpetually needing upgrades.

Another fact is that 25 percent of all Veterans live in rural communities, where there are customarily fewer employment and professional development options available to provide economic security. The great news is that water and wastewater jobs are available in every part of the country—serving the smallest and largest communities.

This Veterans Day, I call on employers across Texas to make the effort to reach out and work

with your area’s Veteran services offices and nonprofits to ensure they know about your job opportunities and that they have the support they need to be competitive in the hiring process.

And to those who have served in the United States Armed Forces at any time in their lives, I not only thank you for your service, I stand in solidarity to rise to your post-military career potential—because I know that without your service, our service would not be possible.

Jeffrey L. McIntyre is the president of Texas operations within SouthWest Water Company, which provides service to 43,000 water connections and 17,300 wastewater connections across the state and has been in operation here since 1996.