Honoring Our Veterans Today and Year-Round

on November 11, 2014 at 5:00 PM

President Obama pauses during a visit to Arlington National Cemetery on November 11, 2009, to leave a Presidential coin in front of the tombstone of 19-year-old Medal of Honor recipient Specialist Ross McGinnis. | Official White House photo by Pete DeSouza.

Each year on November 11, our nation takes a day to honor our veterans. In truth, this is a responsibility we must act upon every day. On this day, we focus our minds and hearts on those who have served in uniform.

Last week I visited Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where I met and expressed my enduring gratitude to our wounded warriors and their dedicated caregivers in person. Some had lost multiple limbs, and sustained other grave injuries, but their fighting spirits remained indomitable.

Walter Reed has an amazing workshop where I was able to see how their experts manufacture onsite the personalized fittings for prosthetics. This is especially important because limbs change shape as patients recover their strength — meaning that they may need a new fitting in as little as a week.

At the Department of Energy, several efforts initiated by our outstanding National Labs are offering new possibilities for future prostheses. Researchers at Sandia National Labs are working to make prostheses more comfortable by studying the forces at work in fitted sockets using newly invented sensors. Meanwhile, a veteran amputee’s interest in using 3-D printing to customize his wheelchair has inspired a new pilot project in advanced manufacturing. That outstanding veteran, Joe Grabianowski, was among the first 20 graduates of this pioneering program.

More broadly, the Department of Energy has been playing its part in an Administration-side initiative to put returning veterans to work — identifying industry partners who offer additional skills-training and employment opportunities in the dynamic energy sector, where we’re continuing to see strong job growth.

As Secretary Ernest Moniz noted at an Energy Industry Association Veterans Roundtable last week, a quarter of the companies on Fortune Magazine’s list of fastest growing companies make money drilling, pumping, transporting, servicing, refining or selling oil or natural gas. Since 2010, oil and gas companies have added more than 130,000 jobs. Renewable energy is also booming. The number of jobs in the solar industry has increased by 50 percent since 2010, and the solar industry now has more than 140,000 workers. Assuming continued strong growth, the U.S. wind industry expects to hire more than 10,000 new workers annually in the coming years.

So we’re hard at work in helping veterans take advantage of these industry trends. With the non-profit Center for Energy Workforce Development, we assisted with the development and implementation of the Troops to Energy Jobs initiative, training and connecting veterans with utility jobs. We’ve also supported programs to help train veterans in wind and electric power grid operations.

And of course, we take hiring veterans seriously ourselves. Of the 14,000 federal employees at the Energy Department, more than 5,000 are veterans — and in fiscal year 2014, 36.4 percent of new hires were veterans! These efforts are a win-win for the United States and for our service members returning to the civilian workforce, whom we welcome with open arms at the Energy Department.

At Arlington National Cemetery today, I will represent our Department at a ceremony honoring our veterans hosted by Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald. On that hallowed ground, I will reflect on the service and sacrifice of the men and women of our armed forces with admiration and deep gratitude. As you observe this day in your own way, I am confident you will feel the same pride in our nation and the generations of those who have served to keep us strong and safe.