A Department of Veterans Affair program in South Dakota is taking homeless veterans off the streets and giving them internships. Six area veterans in the VA Black Hills Health Care System have become full-time employees at the Black Hills National Cemetery. Work began in the first week of October, and two weeks later the apprentices traveled to St. Louis for an intensive week of training.

According to an article in the Rapid City Journal, the new cemetery caretakers undergo a one-year probationary period and receive the same benefits other federal employees receive. Those who complete the program will be able to compete competitively for future positions at higher grades at Black Hills National Cemetery, other national cemeteries or in the private sector.

The program itself provides one year of paid work and training to veterans — a strategy that will enable them to more easily re-enter the workforce, Black Hills National Cemetery director Bill Haggerty said.

“What might have taken people a long time to learn, they are getting compressed into one year,” he said.

So far, the six veterans are dividing their time between shadowing existing employees and formal training. They will spend time with a mechanic, a maintenance worker, the headstone crew and the internment crew.

As for the veterans, they’re thrilled; “It’s given me a sense of pride,” one veteran said, while another called the Black Hills program “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

Source: Rapid City Journal