CONCORD — If employers in New Hampshire give military veterans a chance to prove themselves in the business world, they won't be disappointed.
That's the message Admiral Mike Mullen drove home during an appearance Wednesday at the University of New Hampshire Law's Warren B. Rudman Center in Concord.
"Once you find a company that will provide the opportunity, then match them up with their skills; they will soar," said Mullen.
Mullen was at the Rudman Center, along with Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH, to announce the launch of the Robert J. Dole fellowship program. The $1 million endowed fellowship honors the legacies of Sens. Robert "Bob" Dole and Warren Rudman by providing veterans with the opportunity to attend law school and use their legal education to assist veterans.
"I commend the university for their leadership on this program, one that will benefit not only the men and women that receive the training, but veterans across the state and region that they help with legal issues," Shaheen said.
UNH Law Dean John Broderick said the fellowship program will help fill a void in post-military service training for veterans.
"The legal questions and situations that veterans deal with can be unique," Broderick said.
Broderick said Wednesday's luncheon served as a kickoff of sorts to raise money for the program.
"Receiving a law school education is not inexpensive — too expensive if you ask me," said Broderick. "We hope to have the first fellowship student here this August, and now we need to raise the funds." Mullen was assigned the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on Oct. 1, 2007, having served in the Navy for over 40 years. He retired in 2011. Mullen spoke Wednesday about the challenges that lie ahead for men and women in uniform and the best way to prepare for those challenges.
"Some 70 percent to 80 percent of all who join the military will return to the civilian workforce," said Mullen. "They return to their communities, and one of the things they are met with is an increasing disconnect between the American people and our men and women in uniform ... I've had conversations with community leaders who want to help, but they don't necessarily know how. They're not very familiar with a soldier who's been through five or six deployments, or a family who over the course of 10 years has seen their spouse or mother or father gone for literally half that time."
He added: "They're what I call wired to serve; they want to make a difference. So what I'm focusing on is community leadership connecting a sea of goodwill to these young men and women who are so extraordinary."
The Dole fellowship program will create a conduit to forge those connections in New Hampshire and throughout the Northeast, he said.
"The number-one thing I am asked by employers is how hiring a veteran can help their businesses," said Mullen. "I always say the bottom line is, it will help your bottom line. They are tremendously dedicated, loyal, disciplined young people. They have life experiences under pressure that are very difficult to describe. They're great in a team. They have exceptional skills that translate directly to the civilian workforce."