By Anthony Foxx
In one of the most powerful lines of his 2015 State of the Union address last week, President Obama said, “If you want somebody who’s going to get the job done — and done right — hire a veteran.”
With veterans accounting for more than a quarter of our workforce here at the Department of Transportation, we’re already familiar with our returning troops’ strong professional skills and work ethic. But, that doesn’t mean we’re not taking the President’s message to heart.
Helping our nation’s veterans transition to civilian careers remains a top priority for DOT and for America’s transportation industry. And last week, I joined the First and Second Ladies of the United States at the Joining Forces Forum on Veterans Hiring in Transportation to keep the ball rolling on this issue and renew the call to connect veterans with promising careers supporting our nation’s transportation.
Joining Forces has helped nearly 700,000 veterans and military spouses gain employment. And we at the department have been busy ourselves with a number of successful — and growing — initiatives dedicated to the same honorable purpose.
One of these initiatives is Military2Maritime, which enjoys the continued support of our Maritime Administration (Marad). Through involvement with the American Maritime Partnership-headed Military2Maritime initiative, Marad has helped usher a rising number of our nation’s veterans into the U.S. maritime industry.
Matthew Perkins, formerly with the U.S. Navy, is one of those veterans now working in maritime. As Matthew’s tour with the Navy came to a close, he began seeking employment that would not only be a good use of his skillset, but would also allow him to be near a family member in Houston who required his support.
This was a difficult process — made tougher by the fact that Matthew was living in San Diego at the time.
Thankfully, opportunity came knocking for Matthew — in the form of a Military2Maritime career event in Houston. Matthew made the trip from San Diego to Houston and joined dozens of other job-seeking veterans at the event. There, Marad Executive Director Joel Szabat outlined the ins and outs of transitioning from military service to working in America’s robust domestic maritime industry. After the information session, Matthew met with representatives from almost 200 maritime companies — each looking to recruit veterans.
Speaking with Marad officials recently, Matthew called the Military2Maritime program a “life-changing resource,” and I can see why.
Today, Matthew Perkins is a fulltime employee at Houston-based Kirby Inland Marine.
I’m honored that Marad and DOT were able to play a role in helping Matthew write the next chapter in his life. But we must continue connecting veterans like Matthew with the jobs they need, and where they can continue to serve.