First on CNN: Once-homeless Iraq vet will introduce Obama at unemployment event today
January 31st, 2014
09:01 AM ET
9 months ago

First on CNN: Once-homeless Iraq vet will introduce Obama at unemployment event today

(CNN) - At Friday morning’s White House event on the issue of long term unemployment, President Obama will be introduced by a California man named Erick Varela who served as a combat infantryman in the 82nd Airborne in Iraq, according to a White House official who shared Erick’s personal story with CNN.

When Erick, a skilled heavy equipment operator, left the Army in 2008 and returned home to Manteca, in California’s San Joaquin Valley, the housing crisis was in full swing and he was unable to find work. He applied at fast food restaurants and in retail but couldn’t find a job. His financial situation became so dire that he and his wife, Katey, lived out of their car when they could no longer afford to pay their rent.

Photo by Pete Souza/White House

Photo by Pete Souza/White House

Homeless, Erick continued his job search. He found out about California utility PG&E’s “PowerPathway” program, and he applied online. When he was ultimately accepted into the four month program, he and Katey drove to San Francisco so he could attend. They continued to live out of their car and, with nowhere else to go, Katey would often sit in the back of Erick’s classroom.

In 2009 Erick graduated and three weeks later he had set up interviews with contractors. He is now working in Tesla’s Tracy, California office as an Apprentice Electrician with PG&E. He and Katey have four small children, are nearly debt-free and plan to buy a house soon.

Photo by David Kligman

Photo by David Kligman


Filed under: President Obama • Veterans
soundoff (22 Responses)
  1. Rudy NYC

    Unemployed veterans in need of a job. Homeless veterans in need of food and a bed. These are some of the types of people that conservatives like Paul Ryan identify as takers. These are some of the people who conservatives scorn as lazy. The story of this veteran can be found and told in a million different ways all across America. This man was a veteran. That man was an engineer at a steel plant that closed up. This woman was a nursing supervisor a pubilc hospital before they privatized it. There are millions of hard working Americans who are in dire straits through no fault of their own, but have been kicked to the curb and given up for lost by conservatives like Paul Ryan, who calls them takers.

    January 31, 2014 09:16 am at 9:16 am |
  2. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    In 2009 Erick graduated and three weeks later he had set up interviews with contractors. He is now working in Tesla’s Tracy, California office as an Apprentice Electrician with PG&E. He and Katey have four small children, are nearly debt-free and plan to buy a house soon
    -------------------------------------------------
    I'm not ashamed to admit that I am sitting here crying tears of joy for this man and his family, for his determination to never give up.
    God bless our country, our President, and everything that is being done by him, corporations and anyone else involved trying to put our people back to work.

    January 31, 2014 09:23 am at 9:23 am |
  3. smith

    This problem is only getting worse. When the defense budget is cut most people don`t understand that its not weapons and equipment being cut as much as personel being cut. All the branch`s are currently downsizing(forcing servicemembers out). Recently, their was an announcment that the army was cutting 100,000 members over the next 5 years.

    January 31, 2014 09:25 am at 9:25 am |
  4. Rudy NYC

    smith

    This problem is only getting worse. When the defense budget is cut most people don`t understand that its not weapons and equipment being cut as much as personel being cut. All the branch`s are currently downsizing(forcing servicemembers out). Recently, their was an announcment that the army was cutting 100,000 members over the next 5 years.
    -----------------------------
    Downsizing isn't the problem. It's the setting them adrift part once they're cut that's the problem. Why shouldn't combat veterans be able to get 99 weeks of unemployment if they needed it? Most especially when they've made mulitple tours of duty into comabat zones. I have no doubt that making the mental adjustment from combat zone to civilian life is not like coming in from the cold and removing your coat.

    We need a support system for our veterans. We could create one and call it the Veterans' Administration.

    January 31, 2014 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  5. smith

    @Rudy-Downsizing means people who want to stay in the military are being forced out onto the streets. I saw it happend to alot of guys I served with.

    January 31, 2014 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  6. Joi Gibson

    Way to go Mr. Varela. The best of luck to you and your family. Now that is inspiring!!!! More companies should be doing something like the PowerPathway program and should be shouting it from the roof tops so these veterans can get back on their feet and be like the Varela family. Again, the best of luck!!!!

    January 31, 2014 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  7. Rudy NYC

    smith

    @Rudy-Downsizing means people who want to stay in the military are being forced out onto the streets. I saw it happend to alot of guys I served with.
    -----------------------------
    Obviously, the entire point of my previous post has eluded you. It doesn't fit into your world view. I actually agreed with you.

    January 31, 2014 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  8. S.B. Stein

    I am glad to hear that he and his family are doing better now. It is a shame that there are so many that don't have the job that helps them afford a place to stay. If we can get manufactures to bring jobs back and training programs up and running so that people can do these jobs, that is what Congress and the states should be doing. It is something that would help our fellow citizens. It is worth the money.

    January 31, 2014 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  9. smith

    @Rudy-You said downsizing the military isn`t the problem. I disagree. Its like getting laid off from a job you enjoy. If there was no downsizing some not all would still be employed in the military and not unemployed struggling to find work.

    January 31, 2014 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  10. Rudy NYC

    smith

    @Rudy-You said downsizing the military isn`t the problem. I disagree. Its like getting laid off from a job you enjoy. If there was no downsizing some not all would still be employed in the military and not unemployed struggling to find work.
    -------------------------
    Obviously, the point of my original post still eludes you. I had said that I had actually agreed with you. How is that possible?

    January 31, 2014 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  11. Thomas

    Republicans are sending almost $2 million into a Florida special election for the U.S. House, and Democrats are standing by with almost the same amount. A group backed by conservative billionaire oil heirs David and Charles Koch is running ads nationwide criticizing the federal health care law. And Democrats are trying to fight back against the Koch brothers' political influence, starting with an ad of their own in a key Senate race in Iowa.

    America the best country money can buy !

    January 31, 2014 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  12. TONE

    The only time Republicans have any use for vets, is in time of their ill concieved wars. They see chi-ching for their wealthy masters who has investments in the military industrial complex they do not care about the loss of life, and they sure do not give a darn about supporting them when they return after serving 10 tours either i am a vet and i experienced it first hand. And why do they have civilians working at a veterans office?

    January 31, 2014 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  13. smith

    @Rudy-How can you say you agree, when I said downsizing and defunding the military is part of the problem and you say its not? It sounds like you want to support cutting funds to military but want to support servicemembers. Well, if your cutting funds to the servicemembers your not supporting them are you?

    January 31, 2014 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  14. Fair is Fair

    smith

    @Rudy-How can you say you agree, when I said downsizing and defunding the military is part of the problem and you say its not? It sounds like you want to support cutting funds to military but want to support servicemembers. Well, if your cutting funds to the servicemembers your not supporting them are you?
    --------
    You're getting hit with the double-talk.

    Soon to be followed up with "the right wing doesn't understand sarcasm" or "it was a rhetorical point".

    January 31, 2014 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  15. Rudy NYC

    smith

    @Rudy-How can you say you agree, when I said downsizing and defunding the military is part of the problem and you say its not? It sounds like you want to support cutting funds to military but want to support servicemembers. Well, if your cutting funds to the servicemembers your not supporting them are you?
    -----------------------
    You remind me of someone else around here named "tom l". "Changing" your viewpoint, much less your views, is hard to do.

    January 31, 2014 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  16. Rudy NYC

    Fair is Fair wrote:

    You're getting hit with the double-talk.

    Soon to be followed up with "the right wing doesn't understand sarcasm" or "it was a rhetorical point".
    ------------------------
    It's not double talk. Have you ever heard of the story about the Seven Blind Men and the Elephant? Every blind man had his way to describe elephant, and each was absolutely convinced that they were correct. They were too blind to realize that they were all correct. Your looking at the same groceries.

    Smith is almost arguing that we should spend even more military money, BTW Let's spend more money on stuff that we really do not need at this time.

    January 31, 2014 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  17. smith

    @Rudy- Like I said, you want to cut funding to military and from your last post support downsizing but want to say you support military servicemembers. That`s like going up to a vet who was discharged because of budget cuts and slapping them in the face. Btw, I never even came close to implying we need to increase the military budget.

    January 31, 2014 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  18. Marcus (from...?)

    Rudy NYC – Let's hope that they actually listen to the military when they decide how to spend the money (any money) with Defense, that new jet that nobody in the Pentagon wants comes to mind...

    PS: The quick mention of the Seven Blind Men and the (embalmed) Elephant was probably the only two or three pages worth of anything in Jeff Loeb's run in 'Rulk' (the Red one, hence the 'R')...
    Thanks (not) for reminding me of my last attempt to read a Marvel Comics...

    January 31, 2014 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  19. Rudy NYC

    @Marcus Not familiar with that comic character. The story I have in mind comes from an ancient Hindu parable. Each man had felt a different part of the elephant and came away with a different impression. The one who felt the tail, thought it was like a snake. The leg man thought it was like a tree. The ear man thought it was like a curtain. Etc.

    I mention the story only because the problem for the veterans is a multi-faceted one, like so much in our politics. Unfortunately, some people can only see one facet of the problem, and simply refuse to believe that the coin may have another side. I'm not at all surprised that "smith", and now "Fair", cannot see the world except though their narrow lens.

    Not looking through the lens would mean to stop being a conservative. <-– not sarcasm

    January 31, 2014 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  20. smith

    @Rudy- Look in mirror, then recite the last paragraph from your last comment.

    January 31, 2014 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  21. Rudy NYC

    smith

    @Rudy- Like I said, you want to cut funding to military and from your last post support downsizing but want to say you support military servicemembers. That`s like going up to a vet who was discharged because of budget cuts and slapping them in the face. Btw, I never even came close to implying we need to increase the military budget.
    -------------------------
    I never said that I "want to cut funding". You just did. It's funny. I've had to tell little tom the exact same thing.

    When people say and do things that you do not understand, it is probably because you are looking at them and seeing them as how you want to them to be, which is usually as a reflection of yourself. You should see other people for what they actually say and do, instead of what you think they say and do.

    Funny, I've had to tell little tom that, too.

    January 31, 2014 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  22. Rudy NYC

    smith wrote:

    @Rudy- Look in mirror, then recite the last paragraph from your last comment.
    -------------------–
    "Not looking through the lens would mean to stop being a conservative. <-– not sarcasm"

    Nothing has "changed." Standard definition of a conservative: one who is resistant to change. Switching lenses or perspectives would be a change. You've just thoroughly demonstrated just how impossible it is for a conservative to do.

    Thanks, message stream terminated.

    January 31, 2014 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |