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6/21/2013 - Mayor of Bridgeport Endorses Veterans Across America's Plan to Employ Veterans as Mentors and Life Coaches for Inner City Youth

NEW YORK, June 18, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Mayor Bill Finch of Bridgeport, Connecticut has endorsed Project VALOR, Veterans Across America's plan to employ returning veterans as mentors to at risk, inner city youth in economically disadvantaged urban communities. (VALOR is an acronym for Veteran Adult Leadership for Operation Re-Deployment.) Veterans Across America (VAA), a 501(c)(3) organization, has helped more than 9,000 former service men and women gain civilian employment since 1996.

Mayor Finch issued his endorsement during a meeting with VAA Board member Paul Kwasniewski, an Old Saybrook, Connecticut resident and former Vietnam veteran Army combat medic. Mayor Finch said: "Project VALOR is a win-win, providing employment opportunities for our soldiers returning home and giving our at-risk youth mentors who will lead them in the right direction. I applaud the efforts of Project VALOR for supporting the men and women who have bravely served our country with an opportunity to have a positive impact on inner-city youth."

Mr. Kwasniewski, who helped save the life of Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel in 1968 when Hagel's armored personnel carrier blew up, added: "I didn't rescue him and hundreds of other soldiers to sit by now passively while our soldiers suffer and a new war is raging in the towns in my own state. On 9/11, and throughout the early fall, to get visibility for Project VALOR, I plan to swim both the Connecticut and Thames Rivers, the Hudson River and, if need be, every river in America."

According to the Children's Defense Fund, an American child or teen is killed or injured every 30 minutes by gun violence. In response to this national tragedy, Veterans Across America's founder, Old Lyme, Connecticut resident Wesley Poriotis notes that "more law enforcement is not the answer; veterans can be the solution through Project VALOR."

VAA Board Member Adonis Hoffman, a professor at Georgetown University, agrees that "Veterans can play a key role in their own communities at little or no cost to the government. The VAA solution puts veterans to work as role models to help counter the forces which seduce kids into gangs and into violence."

VAA Board Member, West Point Alumnus, and Vice Chairman of the USO of Pennsylvania and Southern New Jersey Ed Clemons confirms that "Veterans are well positioned to help kids stay in school and on a positive track by providing meaningful life planning."

In 1995, after Admiral William A. Owen, then Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, asked Mr. Poriotis and his colleague, Barbara Mendez-Tucker, to conduct a study on the obstacles Gulf War veterans faced in transitioning to civilian employment. In September 1996, Mr. Poriotis met with President Bill Clinton to brief him on the deselective biases, stereotypes, and myths veterans faced in accessing post-military civilian employment. At the President's request, Mr. Poriotis founded Veterans Across America. In 2004, 2005, and 2006 Mr. Poriotis testified before the House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committees on the need to market the value of military service to civilian employers. VAA's Champion Mentoring Program, which fostered unprecedented job creation for the most needy and vulnerable veterans, especially enlisted men and women of color, became a precursor to use veterans as Champion Mentors for kids at risk through Project VALOR.