Experienced vets help immigrants with their own transition

Matt Saintsing
March 16, 2018 - 2:21 pm

Photo credit: Matt Saintsing


When veterans leave the military, they’re often left on their own figure out life’s next steps. After they transition into their new careers, they have unparalled knowledge and experience that can help a segment of the nation as they face a unique transition of their own: immigrants.

Vets for American Ideals, has partnered with Fourblock, a non-profit organization that helps veterans go beyond the traditional transition programs to land new careers, and Upwardly Global, a group that connects immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers with careers in the United States to connect these two disparate, yet, related groups.

The non-profit trio hosted a first-of-its-kind event Thursday evening where more than 50 veterans and immigrants conducted mock interviews with eachother.

 “Coming from an immigrant family, I experienced that transition on both ends. One, as an immigrant transitioning trying to find my own way, but also the veteran coming back home, trying to find my place,” says Eric Ahn, a first-generation Korean-American, Marine Corps veteran and the mid-Atlantic director for Fourblock.

“I think those two worlds are much more in line than people believe.”

The room was filled with veterans looking to leverage their skills and experience in transition to help some who came to America recently.   

“Veterans and immigrants often have similar hurdles, either integrating, or re-integrating, into society,” says Kirk Foster an attorney who spent 28 years in the U.S. Navy as a judge advocate general (JAG) officer

Kirk was first introduced to immigrants while he was on active duty when he was part of a program that helped ensure immigrants who served in the military attain American citizenship.

“We would help sailors with this process, and host naturalization ceremonies,” he added. “It’s a very rewarding experience, because some of these kids were wearing Purple Hearts. They went and did things that less than one percent of Americans have done.”

The event was more than just networking and mock interviews, it introduced attendees who are newer arrivals to the United States to American and corporate culture.

“I’ve been to a few other events like this, but this one really helped with the right questions to ask because in my culture we really don’t ask about “It’s very helpful, in my country we don’t ask questions on salary, working hours, and the follow-up steps. This was great,” said Shno Abdullah, who came to the U.S. last year from Iraqi Kurdistan.