OPINION

Veterans deserve a slice and a paycheck

Sue LaTour

As the co-founder and president of Passport Pizza, I have made it a priority to support veterans in any way we can — from hiring them to donating food to military families.

This month, I offered my perspective on some ways we can best support veterans at the Detroit Veterans’ Town Hall, hosted by the Detroit Kitchen Cabinet and the Michigan Veterans Institute, led by state Rep. Tom Barrett and state Sen. David Knezek. Along with Jeff Leighton, director of veteran initiatives at the Center for Neurological Studies, and Joe Gardner, director of Wayne County’s Veteran Service Division, we had a productive conversation about how our community can better serve veterans as they assimilate into the civilian workforce.

As Barrett puts it, “We need to help people where they are at.”

Some veterans are reluctant to disclose their service in the military when seeking employment. They fear the stigma that surrounds the mental and physical stability of transitioning veterans and fear that businesses won’t hire them. We discussed the need to create a space where veterans don’t see their service as a hindrance to employment, but elevate the fact that veterans have the kind of skills that businesses look for in employees.

When hiring, we look for individuals with motivation, manners, and management ability. Nobody fits this description better than a veteran of the U.S. military. That’s why more than 250,000 veterans work in the restaurant industry, with approximately 19 percent holding management positions, and why 58,000 restaurant businesses across the country are at least 50-percent owned by veterans.

The National Restaurant Association has created a Military Foundation, which provides career training and counseling, supports military hospitality programs, and encourages small-business ownership opportunities for military personnel.

At Passport Pizza, we donate food for events, we send free meals to military families in need, and we donate food to veterans’ food pantries. We advocated for a law to protect vendors who donate food, which allows more food to be available for veterans and their families who may be in need.

But food is not enough to solve every problem. According to Veterans Affairs, veterans are twice as likely as other Americans to become chronically homeless, and about 1 in 10 returning soldiers seen in VA hospitals have a problem with alcohol or other drugs. Passport Pizza is proud to have launched Families Against Narcotics (FAN). We will provide families with information on rehabilitation options, and what to look for in someone you suspect may be struggling with substance abuse. Additionally, if any of our veteran employees need to leave to get help, their job will be waiting for them when they return.

These problems are too important to wait for the government to get around to solving them. These struggling veterans need people and companies who care and are willing to help one person at a time. This is a community problem, and it is the community’s duty to fix it.

Sue LaTour is co-founder and president of Passport Pizza.