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Sen. Warner Promotes Veterans Corps Initiative During Roundtable at ODU

U.S. Senator Mark Warner conducted a roundtable discussion at Old Dominion University on Thursday, July 8, speaking about services opportunities for military veterans to engage with local non-profit and community groups.

He was joined by active-duty and retired military officials, as well as military families and leaders of community service groups, at the roundtable, held at ODU's recently opened Veterans Business Outreach Center (VBOC), one of 10 centers nationwide that offer entrepreneurial development services to military veterans and reservists.

Senator Warner opened the session, attended by about two dozen invited guests, by speaking about language included in the 2009 Edward M. Kennedy ServeAmerica Act ("Americorps"), calling for a more sustained and structured effort to provide opportunities for returning veterans to continue their public service in their home communities.

He told the audience that those discussions led to the creation of an arm of AmeriCorps known as Veterancorps, specifically created to tap into the vast pool of expertise of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

The senator said these soldiers take on very serious responsibilities, often at quite young ages, working with diligence to complete important tasks. "Those are exactly the skills that many of our community-based organizations, nonprofit organizations, need," Warner said.

The Senator said these soldiers take on very serious responsibilities, often at quite young ages, working with diligence to complete important tasks. "Those are exactly the skills that many of our community-based organizations, non-profit organizations need," he said.

The Hampton Roads area is an ideal location for the development of such an organization because of its long tradition of integrating military and civilian life, Senator Warner added. "In my mind, this would be kind of ground zero. If we can't create this kind of network in Norfolk, we can't create it anywhere. That's our challenge."

Around the table with Warner were many of the people whose work will be key in bringing Veteran Corps to life. Norfolk Mayor Paul Fraim said he never completely appreciated the sacrifices made by military families, and the potential strength of military personnel as citizens in civilian life, until his daughter married a Navy pilot last year.

"We pride ourselves on Norfolk being the best place in the world for the military to do business. What we also want to be is the best place in the world for a military family to live. And this initiative is an important part of that," Fraim said.

One of the people who will help make the initiative a reality was seated to Senator Warner's left at the roundtable. Mary McNaught Yonkman completed the first comprehensive survey of post-9/11 veterans after they returned to the United States, and found a huge, motivated and skilled population wanting to be put into action making a difference in local communities.

A military spouse herself, McNaught Yonkman is excited to be transferring to Norfolk soon, where she will work for The Mission Continues, a service organization specifically aimed at encouraging veterans to volunteer in their local communities.

The meeting was held at ODU because of the university's long-standing partnership with local military branches, most recently demonstrated by the opening of the VBOC last month at Innovation Research Park @ ODU.

Warner worked extensively with ODU on military-themed issues during his term as Governor of Virginia, helping bring about the creation of the Virginia Modeling, Analysis and Simulation Center (VMASC), which has provided valuable M&S expertise to the military.

The Senator said it made sense to hold the roundtable at Old Dominion University

"ODU and President (John R.) Broderick have always been great partners in our efforts to support this region's military men and women and their families," Senator Warner said. "I hope this initiative to leverage the public service instincts of our military veterans will also benefit ODU's commitment to support these local men and women as they pursue educational and entrepreneurial opportunities as well."

President Broderick met with Warner before Thursday's gathering.

"We're thrilled this military service roundtable was conducted at ODU," Broderick said. "Veteran Corps is a fabulous idea, and anything we can do to continue to foster our relationship with active-duty and retired military personnel is also going to benefit us tremendously in the long run."

This article was posted on: July 9, 2010

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