Former President George W. Bush took to the trails during the third annual Bush Center Warrior 100K mountain bike ride, riding alongside 14 wounded veterans from May 23 through May 25 and helping to promote an ongoing effort to increase veteran employment.
"You learn a lot about life hanging out with people who have been through some very tough times," Bush told Fox News' Marc Siegel. "We're a remarkable country in that we produce men and women who, after our nation was attacked, said 'I want to serve.' The price of war is unbelievably devastating for some, and on Memorial Day, our nation rightly honors those who sacrifice, whether it be in the recent conflicts or past conflicts."
While riding alongside the troops is one way of showing the former president's support for them, the larger goal of the Bush Center's Military Services Initiative is to help veterans with jobs, housing, education, their families, and women's issues, Mark McKinnon reported. The initiative aims to analyze what works and what doesn't among organizations helping veterans, and then to turn that information into action.
"We are aiming to make sure that the outpouring of support that is so predominant in our country is channeled in an effective way," Bush told The Daily Beast.
The George W. Bush Institute's Circles of Excellence jobs pilot program, headed by retired Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has pulled together leaders from groups like the U.S. Chamber Hiring Our Heroes Program, Syracuse University Institute for Veterans and Military Families and America Corporate Partners to help find and implement solutions to "critical problems facing post 9/11 veterans," the institute web page said.
Efforts to help returning veterans find jobs are ongoing and bipartisan. First Lady Michelle Obama and Vice President Joe Biden's wife Jill recently penned an op-ed piece highlighting the campaign Joining Forces, which encourages Americans to support veterans and military families through hiring, and pushing for a greater emphasis on veteran employment.
"This is an all-hands-on-deck issue, and we cannot rest until every single veteran and military spouse who is searching for a job has found one," the two wrote. "These men and women have sacrificed so much for all of us. Now is the time for all of us to come together to serve them as well as they have served this country."
There are many ways to show love, respect and appreciation for veterans, Bush said, and everyone can contribute to the effort.
"You can do more than just ride mountain bikes with veterans," Bush said. "You can help a veteran find a job. You can help a veteran who's homeless. You can feed a veteran. You can love a veteran."
View photos of the event on the Bush Center's Flickr page.