Dog Tag Fellows Commencement Speech

Delivered by Constance Milstein to the Inaugural Class of Dog Tag Fellows on November 19, 2014

It is with great pride and warmth that I speak to you this afternoon as your Jewish Godmother.

Not as a business woman. Not as the daughter and granddaughter of veterans, but just as me.

I personally want to thank you once again for your service to our country, for your spirit and bravery, and for your years in the active military of the United States of America.

Not only have I had the privilege to speak and listen to you describe your military lives, but also to hear your thoughts about your “tour of duty” here with us at Dog Tag.

I know that the transition from military to civilian life is not an easy one. You have told me of the challenges you have faced. And I am proud to say you have dealt with them and you are ready to make your next move. As my father did when he boarded the hospital plane coming home to the US in 1945.

He told me about all of the other veterans who rode back home with him in hammocks and on stretchers. I remember the day he showed me a dollar bill, which everyone on the plane signed. So they would always remember that trip, and each other. When he passed away, not even a month after 9/11, my mother showed me his wallet, and that dollar bill which he had carried with him all those years.

It is because of him, the friends I lost in Vietnam, and those who continue to defend our freedom today, that I am dedicated to our military, and to helping empower and care for our military families.

Men and women like you, and families like yours.

I hope our program has given you the tools which you will need to succeed, as you chose what role you will pursue in the future.

Most importantly, I hope we have given you the confidence to follow your dreams, whatever they may be.

Finally, let me share with you some practical advice that my father gave to me.

  • Find an opening and try to fill it.
  • Consider and combine what you know, with what you are passionate about.
  • Take risks – but only calculated ones.
  • When you have a great idea, go after it, and make it even better.

In closing, as the President, First Lady, Dr. Biden and the Vice President say and do – join forces. Don’t be afraid to work together.

I believe that Father Curry and I are stronger as a team than we were working separately. We have the ability to make a bigger difference, and positively impact the lives of more men and women like your selves.

This is how big things happen.

So now it is your turn to make things happen. And I know that you can. And I am certain that you will.

Congratulations Dog Tag Class of 2014. Good luck. We love you.

Honoring Veterans Every Day of the Year

Today – and every day of the year – it’s important to thank our veterans for their service and sacrifice to our country. But we can go one step further than simply saying “thank you” by supporting the educational and professional goals of our veterans.

Over the holidays, as you are shopping for gifts for your loved ones, I encourage you to patronize businesses that are owned by veterans or that have a mission of supporting veterans. Of course, I hope everyone will stop by Dog Tag Bakery in Washington, D.C. — which will open in the next couple weeks — to learn more about our program and our vetrepreneurs. But there are many veteran businesses throughout the United States in almost every community. Our support should continue throughout the year, not just on Veterans Day or around the holidays.

www.buyveteran.com is one great resource for finding businesses to support. Do some research to identify veteran-owned businesses in your community and thank them for their service with both your heart and your wallet.

Dog Tag Bakery is opening soon!

IMG_1270It’s hard to believe we’re down to the final moments of preparation before opening the Dog Tag Bakery store in Georgetown.

When I joined forces with Father Curry a couple years ago to launch this project, we were focused on the belief that no military veteran who wants to work and pursue their career goals should be unemployed. As we put the finishing touches on the bakery, which is expected to open to the public soon, I’m so proud of what our team has accomplished in bringing this program to life.

Our board members were able to get a sneak peek of the bakery recently. While there’s still a lot of hard work to be done to prepare for the opening, so much has already been accomplished. Our inaugural class of Dog Tag Fellows will soon be awarded Certificates of Business Administration from Georgetown University’s School of Continuing Studies. They are the reason this program exists and I’m proud of what they are achieving. In addition to working hard on their degrees, they’ve also been working hard at the bakery. When the store finally opens to the public, they will get a chance to play a part in managing a business with the knowledge gained through the program at Georgetown.

We hope to have a lot of people from the community stop by Dog Tag Bakery not only to taste the delicious baked goods, but also to learn more about the program and understand why it is so important to provide educational and entrepreneurial training programs for veterans and their families. As Father Curry often says, “our men and women in uniform do so much for us. While this cannot fully repay the debt we owe them, we hope they gain valuable experience with us that can help them in the future.”

I’m so excited that opening day is almost here and can’t wait to sell our first baked goods.

The American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial

President Obama recently attended a ceremony to dedicate a new memorial in honor of American Veterans Disabled for Life. During the ceremony, the President acknowledged that our country has not done enough to take care of veterans after they return from war. He said, “as a nation, we have not always fulfilled our obligations to those who served in our name. This is a painful truth and few have known this better than our veterans wounded in war.”

This new memorial in Washington, DC is another important step toward making sure we recognize those men and women who return from war to a life that is not the same as the life they had before serving our country. But we need to do more than just recognize these soldiers; we need to give them all the support they need when they return home. This means both excellent medical care, as well as training and education for pursuing their career goals.

I’m proud to be celebrating next month’s opening of Dog Tag Bakery, a project to give disabled veterans the educational and entrepreneurial tools they need for a successful career. I also hope to see the conversation about this important topic continue beyond the upcoming annual recognition of veterans on November 11. We can’t stop improving the care and support we provide to disabled veterans until every last one has received the backing they need – and deserve – for giving us our freedom.