Honoring Those Who Fought for the American Dream

This Veterans Day will be a very special day for the Orange County Employees Association (OCEA). We have the honor and privilege to host the first annual Veterans + Labor event honoring those who have served our great country.

I’m a proud Marine and Veteran of the Vietnam War, so Veterans Day is particularly personal—it’s a day I remember all my friends who didn’t make it home and wonder what they’d think of how things are going in America today.

Sometimes, as we fight against the drum beat of attacks against rights for workers—attacks that erode the middle class—I wonder myself: Is this what we fought for?

I talk to so many Vets who are discouraged because their American dream—a dream they were willing to die for—is no longer within reach.

When they leave the military, where many learned high-level blue collar skills, the only thing waiting for them in the civilian workforce are jobs that pay $9/hour with no health insurance, no retirement security and no stability. Purchasing a home is way out of reach, and the cost of education—even with the GI Bill—can be a real challenge for some.

Everybody likes to talk like a patriot, but few act like it when it gets down to providing returning Vets decent jobs.

So I am proud that Labor has decided to take this day, Veterans Day, as its day of service and gratitude to Vets because it is our voice that fights each day to restore the American Dream for working families. And it will be our voice that will fight for a real future for returning Vets.

This Veterans Day, labor’s efforts will be centered in Orange County, where we’ll be hosting a huge celebration at the OC Fair & Event Center to say “Thank you” to our heroes.

We have some very special partners in this effort: The California Labor Federation, which represents 2.1 million workers, is behind us, and is working on policies in Sacramento to make sure Veterans have access to good, family-supporting jobs. The Orange County Register/Freedom Communications is showing appreciation for our freedoms, including freedom of the press for which so many have fought, by offering to purchase care packages to send overseas on behalf of new subscribers. PBS SoCal — the great folks that bring us such wonderful programming like Masterpiece Theater and Sesame Street — is running public service announcements. Many other Veterans groups and unions are all working together to make this event special for our heroes.

We are especially privileged to be hosting the unveiling of a surprise United States Post Office stamp that will have special significance for Veterans. There will be bands, food and adult refreshments (commonly known to the Vet population as BEER!!). In addition there will be booths where your children can make holiday cards to be delivered to Veterans in the VA hospital. Volunteer teachers and students will be capturing stories from the Veterans who attend so our children don’t lose that connection to history.

The most important part of the event will be the Veterans who attend, and the opportunity we will all have to step up and say “thank you.”

A simple “thank you” provides such inspiration to each and every man and woman who have served.

So please join me and your OCEA family on Nov. 11 to celebrate our Veterans. I hope to see all of you there!

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