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Bush Summit Focuses On Providing Assistance To Vets

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President George W. Bush assembled a variety of leaders at the Bush Institute to examine how Americans can better support "transitioning warriors and their families" in a post-9/11 world.


George W. Bush made a rare public appearance yesterday in Texas. The one time commander-in-chief hosted veterans summit. It was intended to promote assistance to military vets and their families.

Here's Lauren Silverman of our member station KERA.

LAUREN SILVERMAN, BYLINE: Former President George W. Bush says obstacles for veterans trying to re-enter the workforce can start with the job application.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: What's a veteran supposed to put down? My last office was a Humvee?

SILVERMAN: In the past, Bush has honored veterans through sporting events, an annual 36-hole golf tournament, and a three-day, 100-kilometer bike ride. Speaking to a crowd of military veterans, CEOs and academics, Bush said those efforts aren't enough.

BUSH: What most veterans want is to have their service understood and appreciated for what it is: a formative experience in their lives and a source of skills and values that prepare them to succeed in civilian life.

SILVERMAN: Over the last few years, the jobless rate for post-9/11 veterans has gone down. In January it was just below eight percent. The national average was 6.6 percent.

To help bridge the gap, dozens of major companies - from Walmart and UPS to AT&T and Starbucks - have announced special hiring programs for veterans. The White House has also pushed assistance and awareness efforts. In fact, there are more than 40,000 groups with a mission of helping veterans.

STAFF SERGEANT BOBBIE DOVE: Even with all this around and knowing all the support, it's still a bit nerve wracking of what the outcome really will be, individually for each one of us.

SILVERMAN: Staff Sergeant Bobbie Dove lost his right leg and right arm in Afghanistan two years ago. He's still on active duty, but has already heard horror stories about veterans being turned down for work.

DOVE: It's definitely a harsh reality. But knowing that there's so many people and support makes it a lot easier.

SILVERMAN: At the summit, Dove learned about an entrepreneurship boot camp specifically for veterans he wants to attend.

The transition back into civilian life takes a village; that's what Major Justin Constantine likes to say. After serving in Iraq, he started his own business, and like many returning from war, he still has issues with post-traumatic stress, as well physical injuries that make it difficult to talk.

MAJOR JUSTIN CONSTANTINE: Because I was shot behind my ear and the bullet somehow it didn't hit my brain or my spinal cord, but exploded out of mouth and my face, causing incredible damage.

SILVERMAN: Constantine hopes research being done by the George W. Bush Institute will help erase the stigma sometimes attached to wounded warriors.

CONSTANTINE: It's important for veterans to feel comfortable identifying who they are.

SILVERMAN: And just as important, he says, for employers to value what veterans can bring to the table.

For NPR News, I'm Lauren Silverman in Dallas.

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