Doug Ernst

Napa Valley Register columnist Doug Ernst.

When talking with veterans I want to tell their stories so that non-veterans can understand their motivation and commitment to service. But many veterans, I have found, do not think of themselves as particularly newsworthy. They responded to serve, not to gain praise.

Napa County veterans I’ve met recently have simple, legitimate requests. They would like veteran services to be closer to home, so that they would not be driving out of county as much.

They would like to attend college to learn a trade or a skill so that they might re-enter the workforce with a career. They would like to build families and become a part of the fabric of our local communities.

Thanks to county leaders who are forming a Veterans Commission, and to donors who support the Pathway Home, local veterans are getting some well-deserved recognition, which they need throughout the year, not only on Veterans Day or Memorial Day.

For example, today the American Legion Post 113 is presenting the annual Veterans Day ceremony at 11 a.m. at Veterans Memorial Park in downtown Napa.

Napa Valley College is providing live music for the event, but it does more for veterans throughout the year.

It has grown its veteran services office over the past few years by adding a service officer, cultivating a veteran club organization and partnering with the Pathway Home and the Veterans Administration to help counsel veterans.

By investing in these relationships, the college is training veterans for jobs in our community.

The same is true of other first responders in our community.

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Firefighters who controlled and ultimately stopped last month’s fire, for example, accept our communities’ gratitude with grace and dignity but, like veterans, really do not serve to gain notoriety.

This was explained to me recently during a pancake breakfast held at the college, where firefighters congregated at their own table and humbly received a prolonged standing ovation.

They don’t serve for praise, they serve to serve, I was informed by a longtime public servant.

By serving veterans, firefighters, residents displaced by the fire or local business looking to hire them, Napa Valley College helps those who need to learn skills or earn certificates and diplomas to develop new careers or occupations.

First responders have always inspired college leaders to serve. Since its inception in 1942, during World War II, the college has prepared first responders for service.

In the recent fire, college administrators, staff and students stepped up to run three shelters for evacuees, signed up 2,000 community volunteers and accepted/distributed 209 pallets of donations from generous Napa Valley residents.

The college is 75 years old this year, and its leaders would like to make a statement to the community without boasting.

We simply want to respond and serve, like so many local veterans, firefighters and community leaders have done since the college was founded.

We take that legacy – and that responsibility – seriously.

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Doug Ernst is the Napa Valley College public information officer. Reach him at DErnst@napavalley.edu or (707) 256-7112.