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The new front is right here, at home

The new front is right here, at home

The heartbreak of deployment. The sacrifice of war. The joy of a long-awaited homecoming. 

We see the stories play out in emotional home videos and Hollywood productions.  

But what if returning from combat was nothing like the script we expect to see? The truth is that when Johnny comes marching home, the real battle has often just begun. 

The reality is this:
• There are approximately 133,000 veterans in Orange County —the third- largest population of veterans in California.
• About 75 percent of veterans report family readjustment issues.
• About 1,500 veterans in Orange County are homeless.
• Veterans ages 20-24 are three times more likely to be unemployed than civilians of the same age.

So how do we help? On Thursday, the Orange County Community Foundation released a Special Report on veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, addressing both the challenges they face and the programs helping ease their transition home.

Veterans associations at local colleges and universities are helping lead the charge. These groups offer effective outreach and group support, and are growing rapidly in their impact for veterans like Jacob Lampe. 

Lampe, 25, returned from his deployment in Afghanistan in 2010. The four-year Marine Corps veteran thought he would be a “lifer,” until his best friend was killed, his desire to reclassify was thwarted, and he found himself out of the military.

“For the first year, I did nothing; I hung out on my buddy’s couch and was in a deep depression,” Lampe said. 

Lampe credits his friend for forcing him to decide what he wanted to do with his life, which ultimately led him to Saddleback College in Mission Viejo and its highly-regarded veterans-outreach center.

With the support of the Veterans Education Transition Services program at the college, Lampe researched his G.I. Bill benefits and learned how to navigate the paperwork. He found a family who embraced him. As a member and leader of the Saddleback Veterans Association, Lampe finds that support is the greatest resource the center offers. 

“We have computers and phones and lots of job options, but the most important resource that center has is the brotherhood, the camaraderie,” he says. 

Lampe will complete his associate degree in January and plans to transfer to a four-year university to study sociology. 

For more information about the Orange County Community Foundation’s veteran’s report and examples of programs to support transitioning military, visit ConnectOC.org/veterans. 

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Shelley Hoss is president of the Orange County Community Foundation. She can be reached at shoss@oc-cf.org.

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