Nov 11 2023
From the moment Larry King raised his right hand and became a member of the U.S. Air Force, his purpose was clear: defending the U.S. from all enemies foreign and domestic. As long as he chose to wear the uniform, his vocation and identity would be that of a U.S. service member.
Our service members face many challenges during their time in the military, and those challenges forge men and women who possess the skills and character of leaders, innovators, entrepreneurs and dedicated employees.
In the years since leaving the military, Larry and his wife Ashley have found a new purpose in civilian life and have opened Sojourner’s Coffee House, a successful business in Wichita. Their coffee shop also serves as a haven for active-duty service members, veterans and their families.
It’s a place where veterans can find resources to help with their transition to civilian life and, just as important, find community in the other veterans who frequent the cafe. One of my top priorities for the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs is supporting programs and legislation to help veterans find success after service.
Fortunately, in recent years our country has demonstrated a steadfast willingness to not only provide the resources our veterans’ needs, but also to honor their service and show their appreciation for the sacrifices that they and their families make in service to our country.
Saturday marks Veterans Day — a time set aside to honor and recognize the sacrifice of our nation’s veterans. This year, I also want to highlight the continued importance of our nation’s veterans as they return to civilian life and contribute to our economy and local communities.
Veterans have proven themselves as valuable assets to our nation during their time in the military, but they remain just as valuable to our country and their communities after they leave the service.
Veterans start businesses at higher rates than non-veterans, and 32% of veterans work in public service or charitable organizations, a rate 10% higher than non-veterans. Our newest generation of veterans, much like prior generations, want to be civically engaged and find new ways to continue to serve.
A U.S. Census Bureau report showed that veterans and their families have consistently achieved higher standards of living than non-veterans over the past 40 years. Last week’s unemployment report shows the veteran unemployment rate continues to track well below the non-veteran unemployment rate.
When a service member has a positive transition out of the military and can find meaningful engagement in their communities, they are more likely to credit their success to their military service and encourage others to join the military. For many veterans, accessing federal resources such as education assistance, home loans or health care is a key component of achieving success. But for all veterans, regardless of whether they use federal benefits, finding ways to meaningfully engage in their communities and developing their identities as veterans outside of the military are key components of their success.
Serving our veterans well includes finding ways to understand and put to use the skills they developed in the military as leaders and public servants. Not only will this benefit our communities, but will also help veterans find purpose and fulfillment that is critical in their post-military life.
Military service may not have taught Larry how to make specialty coffee drinks, but it did provide him with the tenacity and compassion to start his own business that uniquely ministers to the needs of his fellow veterans and military families.
As we recognize this Veterans Day, I encourage everyone to express your thanks to the veterans gathered at ceremonies and war memorials, but also to find ways to support the veterans who work and live alongside you. Each of us can start by first seeing all our veterans as national assets as they pursue their own American dream in their life after service.