One Verizon employee's story of his family's debt to America's armed forces
Verizon's Mark Keam writes about how his family survived the Korean War and emigrated to the U.S. thanks to the efforts of our Armed Forces, and how Verizon makes serving our veterans a top priority.
Our guest blogger today is Mark Keam, external affairs director for Verizon's Public Affairs, Policy, and Communications team.
This Veterans Day, we honor all of our fellow citizens who have put on the uniform and voluntarily placed themselves in harm’s way to protect and defend our freedoms.
Yesterday, I joined thousands of Americans on the Washington Mall to visit both the Vietnam War Veterans Memorial and the Korean War Veterans Memorials. These two beautiful memorials are particularly meaningful to me because of my personal experiences.
In early 1950s, my parents survived the Korean War because over 36,500 Americans gave their lives to successfully keep the Republic of Korea from falling under communist rule. Thanks to this heroic effort by our Armed Forces, I was able to be born in that free country a decade later.
When I was four years old, my family moved to Vietnam where we lived until we narrowly escaped the fall of Saigon in April of 1975. I will never forget the scenes of my childhood when I witnessed the efforts of American troops who tried valiantly but failed to contain communism in Vietnam. And having been told stories by my parents about how they survived the Korean War as teenagers, I know what is at stake whenever we send our brave men and women into war.
Inscribed on the wall of the Korean War Veterans Memorial is this simple phrase: “Freedom is Not Free.”
As civilians, we don’t always think about this concept of freedom that we take for granted. But for millions of people around the world – like my parents and me – who gained our freedoms because of America’s military, we know how much that costs.
Today, there are thousands of veterans who are returning home from service in Iraq or Afghanistan. For these brave young men and women and their families, their cost of freedom isn’t free either. Many struggle with injuries and post-traumatic stress issues. Many still are facing unemployment and difficulty returning to school.
We owe it to these heroes to do all we can to ease their transition into civilian life. That is why I’m so proud that Verizon has made serving our veterans a top priority.
Verizon is a leader in hiring veterans and military service, guard and reserve members. We currently employ more than 12,000 veterans, and have a superb program to provide them with all the benefits they deserve.
In September, I was proud to represent Verizon at a meeting with General Martin Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to receive the Secretary of Defense Employer Support “Freedom Award.” This is the highest recognition given by the U.S. Government to employers for their support of their employees who serve in the Guard and Reserve.
Verizon participates in numerous job fairs and career training programs throughout the country, and we were able to provide good jobs to 550 veterans just last year alone. Because of our proactive outreach, G.I. JOBS ranked Verizon No.15 in the 2013 Top 100 Military Friendly Employers List on MilitaryFriendly.com.
Verizon Foundation also provides millions in support of various non-profit veterans service organizations. Many of our employees volunteer to mentor veterans, and some of our lawyers provide hundreds of hours of pro-bono legal services to help veterans secure disability benefits from the government.
To continue our efforts to support veterans, I’m part of a team at Verizon which is researching innovative new ideas, including using our mobile and healthcare technologies to improve their lives. We look forward to announcing these new initiatives in the future.
In the meantime, I am excited that Verizon has renewed our sponsorship of USO lounges in four Washington, DC-area airports: Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, Washington Dulles International Airport and Joint Base Andrews.
This year, as part of our sponsorship, Verizon is launching a new program – Operation Healthy Traveler – that offers nutritious food at the lounges and promotes healthy food choices, stress reduction, and positive mental health for traveling members of the military.
Support of the USO lounges is funded by the Verizon Foundation, working with the USO of Metropolitan Washington.
If you are a military servicemember, veteran or a family member traveling through these airports, I hope you will take advantage of these resources provided for your comfort. And for the rest of us, let’s always remember to thank every veteran for serving our nation.
KEYWORDS: veterans day, Mark Keam, Benefits for Veterans