I recently had the opportunity to speak at the 49th Annual Conference of the Defense Credit Union Council.
As we all know, defense credit unions were founded to improve the lives of men and women serving our country in the nation's military organizations. These brave men and women often are deployed overseas with no access to quality financial services except their credit union. Defense credit unions, like all credit unions, stand behind these brave individuals and their families and offer financial services second to none.
In my address to the members of the Council, I talked to them about the Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944, better known as the G.I. Bill. This dramatic legislation helped this nation cope with what was expected to be a massive unemployment problem after armed service individuals returned to the job market at war's end.
I reminded them that veterans are one of the nation's most valuable assets and how those returning from deployments to countries like Iraq and Afghanistan can feel vastly underappreciated upon returning home and finding no jobs available for them. As the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Michael Mullen, has said, "addressing the challenges of our veterans must be a national priority." I fully support the admiral's statement.
To do their part and be of great assistance in helping our veterans, I urged credit unions to accept the one thousand veteran challenge, which is this: credit unions should set a goal for themselves to hire or create jobs for one thousand veterans.
What Small CUs Can Do
There are over seven thousand credit unions across the country. Not all are in a position to hire one extra person, but many are. Smaller credit unions need not hire a veteran directly, but they can write loans that create jobs for veterans.
I believe credit unions should lead the way in this veterans' job-creation effort - and not be modest about publicizing it. Credit unions have reached out to schools to educate students in financial literacy. They have reached out to immigrant groups to make sure persons with little understanding of English get fair, non-exploitive financial services. They have reached out to communities by offering low mortgage and credit card rates.
Take The Pledge
Now is the time to reach out to the veteran community with the pledge to create jobs. Credit unions must show the men and woman who have served their country in uniform that no one cares more about them than they do. They need to work to make sure that at least one thousand veterans find good jobs in a tough job market so they can settle back into civilian life, buy a home, raise a family and contribute to their communities. Their motto must be "Help Our Heroes-Hire a Vet."
President Calvin Coolidge once said "The nation which forgets its defenders will itself be forgotten." We can never, ever forget those who served to protect what we have in this great country. Credit unions can and must lead the way in this worthy effort. By hiring vets and encouraging their fellow credit unions to hire them as well.
Time To Lead The Way
If credit unions believe America rose to its great level of achievement because of people helping people, they must show it by being the preeminent people-helping-people organizations in the nation.
If credit unions believe America can employ all of its people who want to work, then they must lead the way by helping businesses and building communities.
If credit unions believe that every person who served this country deserves a chance of holding a job, then they must lead the way by helping our heroes and hiring a vet.
Credit unions can and must, lead the way.
Michael E. Fryzel, Board Member
NCUA, Alexandria, Va.