CULLMAN -- Thousands of soldiers are returning home from Afghanistan and Iraq, some seeking new employment and others in need of medical and social services.
Collecting benefits and finding jobs can be difficult tasks after years in the military, but the emergence of a non-profit organization in Huntsville -- Still Serving Veterans -- is reaching out to help veterans upon their return home.
Heading the organization are a group of veterans, many who serve as chief executive officers in private businesses, who want to be sure that returning soldiers receive the assistance they are entitled to, and to integrate them back into the workforce.
"Generally, we're an Alabama-based veterans organization, but the service has grown since we opened in 2005. We hear from veterans all over the country now," said William Webb, president of SSV and a retired U.S. Army colonel.
Webb left his post-service career as a CEO in private business in 2008 to devote full-time attention to SSV. He said the organization was founded after former officers, such as himself, visited Walter Reed Hospital to pray and talk to wounded American soldiers. One soldier, in particular, who had served with Webb's son in Iraq had suffered a brain injury which inspired others to carry their concern into greater action.
Thousands of veterans have received counseling and other types of assistance since SSV started.
In 2010, SSV opened 760 new veteran cases, conducted 2,599 one-on-one counseling sessions for veterans, secured over $9 million for clients, and helped 71 Veterans get hired with an average annual salary of $50,214.
"Our goal this year is to assist 100 veterans with employment, and we are already at 96 around the first of the month," Webb said. "We link up with other organizations to find the appropriate assistance and to help translate veterans' military skills into the workforce."
Webb also noted t hat more than 40,000 American service members have been injured in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that in the 20-24 age group of veterans more than 20 percent are unemployed.
SSV operates with the assistance of corporate partners who have donated generously to the organization. Some grants have also been secured in SSV's existence, but those are becoming more difficult because of the tightening of government dollars.
Webb said financial donor are always welcome to the non-profit organization.