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Patriot Ledger - Keeping Promises to Our Veterans

Op-Ed

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By Senator John Kerry

Captain Tim Malley has always been a man with a plan.

Twenty years ago, Tim was scouting fish stocks for commercial fishing boats as a spotter pilot. But his dream was always to work his way up to become the owner-operator of a 75' longliner sword fishing vessel. Today, he heads a successful seafood business on Boston Fish Pier that supports a critical fishery and industry in Massachusetts.

Tim is always looking for the best crews for his two main vessels. It's tough work, and requires peak physical performance, disciplined work ethic, camaraderie, and teamwork.

So when Tim started hearing stories of Massachusetts' sons and daughters returning home from Iraq or Afghanistan to find too few job opportunities, he hatched a plan to do something about it.

Rather than accept defeat, Tim saw opportunity -- a "confluence of needs," he would later tell us -- and decided to fill his next crew with Massachusetts veterans. His search led him to my office, and with the help of veterans on my staff, he found a Marine from Whitman named Erick Valiente. Erick needed work, and his Marine training was exactly what Tim was looking for. A few weeks later, Tim was picking up the 25-year-old Iraq veteran from the airport and preparing him to ship out from Port Canaveral on one of Tim's ships, the Iron Lady.

No one ever really knows how a "greenhorn' -- a first-time crewmate -- will fare at sea. But within just a few days, Tim was hearing back that Erick was a natural, taking as well to the job as he took to the sea. But Billy Kingette, Captain of Tim's second boat, the Iron Maiden, wanted to see for himself. Fishing for swordfish and tuna more than four hundred miles offshore, Captain Kingette pulled his boat alongside Erick's, flung himself off the side, and swam to the adjacent ship. Billy messaged his verdict to Tim later that night: "Your Marine whipped up a great meal."

Tim's plan worked, and he's vowed to continue to hire more and more vets with each boat that launches. His incredible efforts are a lesson to all of us: when it comes to Massachusetts' veterans, if we go the extra mile to provide jobs, training, and other opportunities when they return home, we all win.

Here in the Senate, we can make a difference in helping people like Captain Tim Malley. I was proud to co-sponsor the Vow to Hire Heroes Act, which President Obama recently signed into law. It will provide major tax credits to employers and businesses to hire veterans. It expands education and training opportunities, and provides special protections and incentives for hiring vets with service-connected disabilities. My office is also working directly with veterans organizations in cities and towns across Massachusetts to identify local needs and connect out-of-work vets with the small businesses and companies ready and willing to hire.

The U.S. economy added 243,000 jobs in January --the fastest growth since April and the lowest unemployment rate in nearly three years. But the unemployment rate for our veterans is still higher than the national average -- and we must all do more to provide opportunity to those who so selflessly protected us.

I know firsthand this important truth: that we keep faith with veterans in actions, not words. I came home from a war and saw that too many politicians in Washington didn't keep their promises to veterans. I pledged then that if I ever had a position of authority, that I'd keep faith with my brothers in arms. Now we've got a new generation of veterans coming home to an economy that is still on its way back to a position of strength, and helping veterans find jobs and get back to work is a sacred obligation. Captain Tim Malley is showing us that it's one promise we can -- and must -- keep.


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