Retired Col. Lee Ellis, center, spoke to the members of Vet Buds Nov. 12 about the importance of using wartime lessons in the workplace.
JONATHAN COPSEY. (click for larger version)
November 20, 2012ROSWELL, Ga. — While the unemployment rate nationally may be slowly inching down, there is one group of Americans for whom that rate is just going up – veterans. By some estimates, unemployment among soldiers returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is as high as 20 percent, with minority and women veterans as high as 40 percent. To help with this problem, North Fulton's veterans community is coming together.
The Vet Buds group has about 100 members and meets regularly each month with the goal of helping each other post-war.
"We're about veterans helping veterans," said Kent Sharp, with Avery Partners, a founding member of Vet Buds.
Vet Buds held a mixer Nov. 12 for their members to meet companies in a relaxed setting, and had as a speaker retired Col. Lee Ellis, a former prisoner of war during the Vietnam War.
Ellis has written three books; his most recent is "Leading with Honor," a book filled with stories from his five years of captivity with lessons for life and business.
"I take the lessons from the POW camp and apply them to today's workplace," Ellis said. "The same principles that worked there apply here."
One example is confronting doubts and fears.
"While I was being interrogated, I was fearful, but I had to be patriotic and faithful to my country to overcome it," Ellis said. "Leaders face tough decisions every day. Human tendency is to take the easy way out. It's easy to dodge your duty. It may be firing someone or speaking the truth, but if you lean into that fear and pain, you'll come out ahead."
Ellis shared stories from his captivity with the assembled veterans of various wars, how he had propaganda given to him every day, how he always heard the bad news from the States – the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy – but missed the good news, such as walking on the moon.
"They were always trying to convince us they were the good guys," he said.
He said when the prisoners finally did learn about the moon landing, they stood and saluted the moon together.
In March of 1973, he and his fellow POWs were released and sent home, where they were met with a hero's welcome.
"When we came home, we were well received," Ellis said. "Most of you didn't get that. Thank you for your service."
Vet Buds meets every fourth Wednesday of the month at 7:30 a.m. at Uptown Breakfast Grill, on Nesbit Ferry Road, Johns Creek.