Veteran’s Day isn’t until Sunday, but it was celebrated in a big way yesterday inside the famous former Ford Assembly Plant on Richmond’s historic waterfront.
The Salute to Veterans event at the Craneway Pavilion, sponsored by Chevron, does more than honor veterans. What is unique about this annual event is its wide-ranging veterans resource fair that connects military members to a variety of important services, from assistance with accessing veterans benefits to job training and housing support.
When the Ford auto plant was converted to serve the WWII effort, it handled more material and equipment than any other facility serving the Pacific theater during the war, according to Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia. On Friday, the same spacious facility bustled again, this time with representatives of local veterans organizations and government agencies such as the Disabled American Veterans, Delta Veterans Group and Contra Costa County Veterans Service. Jenna Galvan-Speers, a county Veterans Service Representative, was among several experts who worked to assist veterans identify and access benefits.
“We’re all trained with the code and federal regulations, to understand how the VA works with regard to VA benefits,” Galvan-Speers said.
Chevron used the resource fair as an opportunity to recruit veterans for jobs at the Richmond Refinery. Meanwhile, trainers in Chevron’s locally-popular Regional Occupational Program spread the word about their five-month program that prepares residents for high-paying jobs in industrial facilities, including the Richmond Refinery.
The Greater Richmond Interfaith Program, a nonprofit providing housing, food and other services to the homeless, advertised four housing units they manage for vets that are set to become vacant. Also, the Bay Area Rescue Mission, the popular Iron Triangle-based nonprofit, brought a handful of veterans to the resource fair, not just to seek out services, but also to enjoy the company of fellow vets at the event, which also included entertainment and historic exhibits in the storied facility on Richmond’s waterfront.
They could stop by booths featuring representatives of San Francisco-based Swords to Plowshares, the U.S. Veterans Business Alliance, the De Anza High JROTC program and many more.
Gioia said the long list of resources makes Salute to Veterans a valuable tribute to the people who sacrifice to secure our freedoms.
“I want to thank Chevron for holding a different type of veterans event,” he said. “What makes this event special and unique is we’re not here in words, but it’s a resource fair with many great organizations that provide important and needed support for our returning veterans.”
Richmond Mayor Tom Butt, who joined Gioia as a speaker at Salute to Veterans, took the opportunity to urge more employers to hire veterans, touting their unique talents valued by many companies, such as dependability and teamwork skills.
“In the armed forces, the training never stops…you are always learning how to do it better,” said Butt, himself a Vietnam War veteran who earned a Bronze medal.
Salute to Veterans, which ran from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., included a free buffet lunch, entertainment by the Swingin’ Blue Stars, and a ceremony welcoming new Army recruits.
Hector Infante, public affairs manager at Chevron Richmond, said he moved to the U.S. 16 years ago and was impressed “by the respect and gratitude shown to veterans.” He marveled at being at the Richmond waterfront where more ships were built during WWII than any other U.S. shipyard.
“We appreciate what veterans do as teachers, as business owners, as elected officials, as workers, and as professionals,” Infante said.
Chevron employees over 1,300 veterans, and they’re “an important part of our company’s success,” Infante added.
“Our company’s doors and our refinery’s gates are open to those brave men and women who serve our country,” he said.