Iowa Workforce Development employees marched in celebration and commemoration of their colleagues earlier this week, when roughly two dozen military veterans who work at IWD took part in a parade commemorating Veterans Day at the Iowa State Fair.
The march was about both honoring veterans and calling attention to the variety of services that exist to help veterans succeed in Iowa careers, said Beth Townsend, director of Iowa Workforce Development.
Townsend was one of 10 Iowa women veterans who were recognized as grand marshals of the parade. Townsend spent 21 years in the U.S. Air Force and Air Force Reserve before retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel.
“IWD is proud to take part in a great event to honor Iowa’s veterans,” she said. “We want veterans to know that our agency values their contributions and that we’re ready to help whenever they’re ready to pursue a new career.”
Ryan West, a U.S. Navy veteran and deputy director of IWD, said later in a radio interview on the fairgrounds that the parade should underline the value that Veterans can have to any Iowa company looking to fill open jobs.
“Iowa employers are looking for folks they can train,” West said. “A veteran has put himself or herself through various kinds of training over and over and over again. They’ve learned discipline and the mindset of being able to work through hard problems. They should be a valuable resource for any Iowa employer.”
Monday’s marchers walked behind a banner for Home Base Iowa, the IWD program created in 2014 to help veterans and their spouses succeed in new Iowa careers. HBI hired five new career planners earlier this year to provide one-on-one job assistance for veterans inside or outside of the state. Since then, more than 200 veterans have found new careers with assistance from Home Base Iowa.
The Rev. Steven Croft, a member of the Wapello County Veterans Commission, had seen the signs before but never understood what they meant. Strolling over to the IWD group before the parade began to move on Monday, Croft asked questions about the mission of HBI.
“That sounds like an outstanding program,” he said a few minutes later. “I wish they’d had it when I retired.”
Croft, who left Ottumwa in the 1960s for Vietnam, never planned for a career in Iowa. He served in an engineering company during the war, then transferred to the Army chaplain corps, where he rose to the rank of sergeant major. Croft spent several decades in Georgia before retirement and his native-Iowan wife ultimately led him back home.
It’s good that Home Base Iowa is reaching out, he said.
“Iowa does a pretty good job of honoring its veterans,” Croft said. “But you’d always like to see more.”
For more information about Home Base Iowa and how it can help, visit www.HomeBaseIowa.gov.