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"Boots Up" Partners With City Of Pensacola & UWF To Help Vets


The City of Pensacola is partnering with a new non-profit to help recently discharged veterans transition to civilian life. "The partnership with Pensacola is one of we hope many in the area that we will have". Mark Harden is the Florida Region Director of Boots Up, a non-profit that was recently formed to help service members transition to civilian life. "The city of Pensacola has plenty of prior military that work for them. Many of those might want to be mentors for our transitioning military. Additionally (the city has) jobs. They may have available for transitioning military as well."

And the city is not alone. The University of West Florida’s Military and Veterans’ Resource Center is also getting involved. Marc Churchwell is the Director of the center. He says he has worked with Mark Harden before and is happy to be involved in his new program. "He wants a good educational partner to support his program and his veterans who are perusing education  to hopefully open some doors for careers. And we want to be that educational partner." 

The military has a system in place to help service members who are leaving. But Churchwell says sometimes the amount of information can be overwhelming. "When you separate from the military there's a Transition Assistance Program that you go through. It's typically a week long. You go in there...all day long just feeding you lots and lots of really good and valid information. The problem is, you're only focused on the parts at that point in time that are important to you. " Churchwell says if plans change, it helps to have a place to go that can sort through the different benefits and options you may have forgotten. 

The organization Boots Up was formed in the New York-New Jersey metropolitan area. When Mark Harden was contacted by the founder to join its board of trustees, he thought bringing the group to the Pensacola area made perfect sense. "I told her 'geez, this will work here.' Northwest Florida is so military friendly and supportive it's the perfect grounds for Boots Up itself."

For now, Boots Up is putting down its roots here in northwest Florida. If you’d like to find out more or get involved in the program, go to bootsup.us

Bob Barrett has been a radio broadcaster since the mid 1970s and has worked at stations from northern New York to south Florida and, oddly, has been able to make a living that way. He began work in public radio in 2001. Over the years he has produced nationally syndicated programs such as The Environment Show and The Health Show for Northeast Public Radio's National Productions.