TODAY   |  November 11, 2013

Jobs service transitions veterans into the workforce

The Donnie D. Dixon Center, named after a staff sergeant who fell in the line of duty, is working to get veterans transitioning from the battlefield to the job market.

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>>> when our troops come home from active service, we welcome these heros with big parades.

>> but when the celebrations end many of these vets find themselves unable to get a job.

>> but one organization is hoping to change all of that.

>> this is an opportunity created by a community consolidating efforts to enable you to not allow the vileness of the battlefield to affect your capacity for greatness.

>> retired colonel david sutherland served in the army for two decades with commands in two wars. but now he's taking on a new challenge, getting vets jobs.

>> they're phenomenal young people . they just need a little assistance during transition and reintegration and they'll sore.

>> he thought of the dixon center for military veterans and community services , named for staff sergeant dixon . a soldier under his command in iraq.

>> you serve with amazing people and staff sergeant dixon was one of those amazing people.

>> reporter: he was killed during an attack while protecting colonel sutherland's unit.

>> he represents everything good about the values of the military. there was no better person that i knew to name the dixon center after.

>> reporter: now in it's second year of operation, the dixon senor has already forged a relationship with people's gas in chicago who created an intensive six month training course designed solely for vets to join their work force . raymond was part of the first class of applicants.

>> i got a pretty quick call and signed up for the class. it was kind of surreal. i didn't expect it to be so easy.

>> reporter: he was a soldier that did two tours in iraq and one in afghanistan. after his third tour, he was ready to come home.

>> i decided i didn't want to make it a career. i knew i couldn't stay in the military long. i would just be losing opportunities. i decided to come back and go to school.

>> reporter: it was a tough adjustmented for ray and he came to realize college wasn't for him.

>> it was definitely a difficult transition at first. i was doing okay. okay grades. but i didn't know what i was trying to do.

>> after completing the program, ray now has a whole new life.

>> i went from living in my parents basement, being stuck there with no prospects. this job has been a way to help me move out, get an apartment, pay off my car.

>> reporter: air force vet danielle sanders also graduated in the first class. after 27 years of active service, she retired but was having difficulty finding a new career. danielle worked several part time jobs before enrolling in the program and is now in a good place.

>> you already let go?

>> yeah.

>> okay.

>> it's a little bit calmer for me now and i'm not working the two and three jobs and i don't feel so stressed out anymore.

>> reporter: and she's already looking to climb the corporate ladder.

>> i just need to do more networking and learn the job a little more and learn new jobs and i will get there.

>> reporter: with two classes graduated and the third starting now, colonel sutherland's vision is taking shape.

>> i serve for you, i fought with you, and i would die for you. dixon center will enable you and assist you where you need that help.

>> okay. our veterans make the best employees. come with a lot of skills.

>> unique skills.

>> unique set of skills.

>> that's right. we'll be back in a moment. but first, this is "today" on nbc.

>>> oh, yeah.

>> happy birthday.

>> i wonder whose birthday is it?

>> oh.