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Photography courtesy of Working Wardrobes

Military brass from the Pentagon, Marines, Navy SEALs, and other servicemen, including First Sergeant Matt Eversmann, U. S. Ranger, whose story was captured in the award-winning movie “Black Hawk Down,” joined nearly 150 guests at The Pacific Club in Newport Beach on October 18. They gathered for VetNet Nite, the inaugural fundraising event to help kick off Working Wardrobes’ new VetNet program. The inspirational evening in support of veterans netted $70,000 to underwrite career training, employment guidance, job placement and wardrobing services to those having served dutifully, yet who have faced hardship in the return to civilian life.

“I know firsthand the challenges our military servicemen and women face when re-entering the civilian workforce,” said Harry Humphries, Executive Director of VetNet and Navy SEAL. “Working Wardrobes is extending its suite of services to provide these men and women with the skills and confidence needed in order to provide for themselves and their families after service.”

The moving event was highlighted by a keynote address from Eversmann, who kept attendees riveted with harrowing episodes from his time in Mogadishu, Somalia, culminating with a powerful message about those he led during one of history’s most dangerous missions.

“American veterans – those with whom I served and the thousands who will be arriving home in the coming years – are some of the most capable, resourceful, goal-oriented people on the planet,” said Eversmann.  “In combat, I’ve witnessed laser focus, unrelenting determination and a do-what-it-takes approach to accomplishing the mission, and I can’t help but think those skills have unmatched value in today’s labor market.”

The event opened with an appropriate dose of military pageantry – an official Color Guard presentation by the American Legion Newport Harbor and a stirring rendition of the National Anthem, delivered by veteran Lisa Garisto.  Powerful remarks followed from Brigadier General Jason T. Evans, the 65th Adjutant General of the U.S. Army, who spoke about the Army’s dedication to making the transition from military to civilian life a priority issue, including a new strategic initiative under his command.  U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (46th Dist., Calif.) also attended to support VetNet and the growing effort to bolster the American workforce with those who faithfully served America, along with Robert Banuelos, aide to U.S. Rep. Loretta Sanchez (47th District).  Working Wardrobes received bipartisan Congressional proclamations in recognition of VetNet.

“Approximately 80,000 veterans will return to Southern California in the next year, and now is the time to raise greater awareness in our community about the ready, willing and able arm of the nation’s workforce comprised by veterans,” said Jerri Rosen, Founder and CEO, Working Wardrobes. “Our goal is to help those who have given so much for our freedom find healthy and happy civilian lives here in Southern California through the dignity of work.”

Working Wardrobes’ VetNet program launched earlier this year after receiving the first federal grant from the U.S. Labor Department’s Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program awarded in Orange County. As a result, Working Wardrobes has assembled a dedicated VetNet staff to implement the new program. The team includes a full-time program director, job developer and case manager, especially for veterans. This year alone, Working Wardrobes is expected to help at least 100 displaced area veterans with housing and job placement and another 150-200 veterans who will be referred by agencies throughout Southern California.

Working Wardrobes, an independent nonprofit organization, empowers men, women, veterans and young adults who are overcoming life’s challenges to transform themselves and confidently enter the workforce, by providing career development, job placement assistance, wardrobe and grooming services provided in an environment of dignity and respect. Since 1991, Working Wardrobes has served nearly 60,000 adults emerging from a wide spectrum of backgrounds, including welfare-to-work, alcohol and substance abuse, domestic violence, transitional homelessness, catastrophic illness and traumatic financial losses.