Editorial Cartoon

Imagine you had done a job for years, and done it well.

Imagine, also, that you often had to do that job under the least ideal of conditions, with limited resources, and sometimes in conditions that were dangerous to your health and safety.

Now, imagine you left that job and were told that your experience counted for nothing on the job market, and you would be forced to start back at square one.

That is the reality faced by many of our veterans who spend years honing their skills in a particular field while in military service, only to find that, when they get done, their experience, their skills set them at no higher a level than someone starting out in their field.

Local U.S. Army veteran Nathan Sesco is working to change that. Sesco currently working with legislators to draft a bill that would allow veterans, who worked in a trade during their military service for two or more years, to receive apprenticeship credit for that experience. The bill, Sesco said, would allow veterans to become licensed in trades like carpentry, painting, electrical work and engineering, and get back to work within one year of returning home.

He’s already gaining support for the measure from local legislators from both parties, as he recently met with state representatives John Blanton, a Republican, and Angie Hatton, a Democrat, to enlist their help and support in getting a bill on the matter before the upcoming General Assembly session, set to start in January.

The upcoming legislative session is a “budget session,” meaning the bulk of the work legislators will be doing in Frankfort will be focused on setting a two-year spending plan for the state. 

However, if this legislation is introduced, then legislators must understand that time is of the essence in this matter.

As Sesco told the News-Express last week, this is truly a life-or-death matter for many veterans.

Sesco said the bill is aimed at improving veterans’ mental health because, if veterans can become licensed sooner upon returning home, then they will decrease their “idle time,” which could help reduce their risk for committing suicide.

“I’ve seen from personal experience that it works,” Sesco said. “You have to get their minds occupied. If you’ve served the years necessary to work in that trade while serving in the military, you shouldn’t have to go back to school and start from scratch when you get home.”

It would be easy, in the face of all the challenges our state government faces, to simply look at a measure like this on its face and say, “It’s not time,” or “We’ll take this up later.”

But there is a very real cost to delay on this matter, as Sesco pointed out.

More than 6,000 veterans across the country committed suicide every year between 2008-16, and in 2016, there were 108 total veteran suicides in Kentucky, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

There’s too many benefits to a bill on this for it to not be taken up and approved, even if changes are required.

If it could save even one life, that alone would make it worthwhile.

However, there’s also potential economic benefits which could result from the legislation becoming law. For one, employers in those affected trades would have a much greater pool of qualified applicants from which to draw. That’s a real benefit, to be sure.

However, there’s also the greater benefit of continuing to train and prepare our local workforce. As we attempt to market our community to new businesses, one of the main questions pins on whether those businesses can find people who are qualified and trained in various fields to either work directly in their business or in support industries.

The more we can answer that question in the affirmative, the more likely those businesses are going to be to decide to locate in our region.

It’s true that this measure will have to be discussed and put to several tests before it can be set in stone and become law, but we’re glad that it’s being seriously discussed and is already moving forward so that no more time than necessary is lost before something is done.

Our legislature must act on this matter and we must act in a way that supports those who have sacrificed so much for us. The time is now, and the men and women who it will most benefit are unquestionably deserving of at least this much consideration.

— Appalachian News-Express,


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