Later this month, Jessica Klinge will help launch the Illinois chapter of Green Veterans, a national group that helps veterans transition from military to civilian life by connecting them with training for “green industry” jobs and other resources. Based in Chicago, it will join existing chapters in Florida, Wisconsin, Michigan, Rhode Island and Puerto Rico, according to the organization’s website.
In Milwaukee, a program run by Green Veterans founder and combat veteran Brian Sales uses urban gardening as an alternative therapy for veterans coping with post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health conditions. Such issues can make it difficult for veterans to transition following military service, Klinge said.
About 9.5 million veterans were in the labor force as of March, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Another 9.8 million did not have full-time jobs, due to factors such as difficulty finding work, service-related injuries or age.
“For veterans to transition to the workforce, depending on what their situation is, they can definitely have a harder time than civilians,” Klinge said. “What you might do in the military doesn’t always transfer over to the civilian world as easily.”
Klinge said that the new Illinois group, which is hosting a launch event Oct. 22, will look to expand on an existing program with the Chicago Botanic Garden, which offers paid internships to veterans in various departments, including living plant documentation, display gardens, construction and maintenance and photography. The group is also in conversation with several community gardens about hosting training opportunities for veterans, Klinge said.