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COMMUNITY REPORT: Creating a ‘stronger’ future for L.A. veterans

What Daniel Stansell describes is the experience of too many men and women who have worn our nation’s uniform.

“Employers were not sure if I could be accommodated,” he said. “They didn’t say it outright, but I could tell by their hesitance.”

Stansell served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and after leaving the service, he returned to school and entered the civilian workforce. As he was leaving home one morning in 1995, he suffered a gunshot wound that left him paralyzed.

Forced into a long period of rehabilitation, Stansell lost his job and home. Finding — and keeping — a job became a challenge. Like so many of his fellow veterans, Stansell was unemployed.

The men and women who serve our country should have access to every career opportunity when they leave the armed forces. But many veterans are dealing with challenges that are unique to their service — from physical disabilities to mental health issues. We need to make sure these challenges don’t keep people out of work.

Veterans bring so much more than job skills to the workplace. They bring, as Stansell says, “fortitude, drive and determination.” And yet the troubling reality is that we too often give the least to those who have done the most to serve our country.

That’s why I launched the 10,000 Strong Veterans Hiring Initiative three years ago: to secure employment for 10,000 veterans in Los Angeles by the end of 2017. Our partners in 10,000 Strong include the City WorkSource Centers and the Employment Development Department, as well as companies like SpaceX, City National Bank and Starbucks.

I’m proud to say that, together, we surpassed our goal ahead of schedule. To date, the initiative has placed more than 10,500 veterans in jobs at 200 companies across the L.A. region.

Daniel Stansell was one of those who was hired after attending a job fair at L.A. Trade Tech College. He got job training from Salvation Army Haven and Paralyzed Veterans of America and ultimately employment as a vendor specialist and database administrator for two firms.

It felt to Stansell like “10,000 pounds were lifted off my back.” That is a feeling we hope to bring to every veteran.

The 10,000 Strong Veterans Hiring Initiative is a start, but not an end to our efforts. We will continue to work toward the day when every veteran, including those with disabilities, can find fulfilling employment.

I hope our work in the City of Angels inspires other cities to do the same. In Stansell’s words, “even if it changes just one person’s life,” initiatives like 10,000 Strong are “worth it.”

It is up to all of us to make sure our veterans come home to a future defined by opportunity. On Veterans Day, those are our marching orders.

Mayor Eric Garcetti’s “Community Report” column is a monthly feature of The Wave.

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