- Written by Megan Joyce Megan Joyce
After more than two decades with the U.S. Navy, Derek Lindsay had traded a military uniform for a suit and tie.
Currently unemployed, the Cleona resident made his way around the floor of the recent Lebanon County Veterans’ Expo & Job Fair, in search of prospective employers who would take his Navy experience as a hospital foreman and transform it into civilian work.
“I just finished up my bachelor’s degree in healthcare management … so I’m trying to find a job,” Lindsay said. “I retired from the Navy after 26 years ranked as a senior chief.”
Lindsay was not alone in his job-seeking mission that day, as transitioning military personnel, veterans, and their families gathered for the recent Veterans’ Expo & Job Fair, held at the Lebanon Valley Expo Center and hosted by OLP Events.
It was the first time the one-day event, which comprises both an expo and a job fair, was held in Lebanon County. Admission was free to the public.
“Recent employment numbers suggest the country is near full employment, which makes it very difficult for employers to find qualified employees,” Donna Anderson, president/CEO of OLP Events, said in her remarks during the event’s opening ceremony.
“And that’s why many of these great businesses are here today — because they know veterans make wonderful employees.”
The Red Rose Veterans Honor Guard performed the Presentation of Colors, honoring each branch of the military, and Jack Cantwell, veteran and owner of SkyLimit Marketing, sang the national anthem and led the pledge of allegiance.
Doug Etter, manager of public and community relations for the Lebanon VA Medical Center, expressed his gratitude to his fellow veterans in the room. Etter retired as a colonel from the U.S. Army in July after 34 years.
“We as a VA are here to take care of my brothers and sisters,” Etter said. “So, my brothers and sisters, thank you for your service. As one who has consumed the dregs of combat with you, I understand, I’ve been there, and I appreciate you more than you can know.”
Jo Garvin, from the Quilts of Valor Foundation, presented Quilts of Valor to William H. Dangro, U.S. Army technical corporal, and John E. Bidding, Marine Corps weapons specialist E5 and squad leader.
The quilt is a lifetime award bestowed upon deserving veterans and active service members for their service to the nation.
During the Korean War, Dangro, of Lancaster, was wounded three times the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir and spent 33 months in a communist prisoner of war camp.
Bidding, of Camp Hill, served two tours of duty in Vietnam and earned the Good Conduct Medal, the Vietnamese Service Medal with two stars, the National Defense Service Medal, and several others.
The Veterans’ Expo connected active and retired military members with benefits and resources available through local businesses and organizations.
At the Job Fair, veterans and employers met face-to-face to discuss available positions, and students at Barber Styling Institute performed free haircuts.
Company representatives were looking to fill openings in sales, labor, management, tech, medical services, transportation, clerical, manufacturing, engineering, construction, retail, financial services, and more.
“We just try to reach out to the public, and this is a special group,” Brittani Helman, HR generalist with exhibitor Ace Hardware, said. “We have jobs we think would be a good fit for them, so we’re just trying to employ the best. They’re hard workers; they show up to their job every day.”
The Job Fair included a Resource Center that provided information for translating military careers to civilian opportunities. George Dillman, investor education coordinator for the Pennsylvania Department of Banking and Securities, discussed financial services and planning.
Also available in the Resource Center were representatives from the Lebanon VA Medical Center, offering information on veteran benefits and resources, and staff from PA CareerLink of Lebanon County, who assisted with onsite computer registration for the organization’s job programs and services.
“If you are a veteran and you need a job, I hope you will find joy today in the employment offers that you receive,” Etter said.
“And if you are looking for people who are dedicated, who know how to accomplish difficult tasks, who are able to work under great stress, who will not be positively testing in drug tests but will work creatively and cooperatively, then you want to hire a veteran.”
The Veterans Expo & Job Fair will return to Lancaster County Thursday, Nov. 1, at the Farm and Home Center, 1383 Arcadia Road, Lancaster.
For more information, call (717) 285-1350 or visit www.veteransexpo.com.