Former Army Captain and Special Forces Officer Ben Bateman says a key part of being in the military is giving and receiving support. “I’m here in front of you today because of the help I asked for and received from others during my nearly nine years of service,” he says. “In the military, you are always part of a team.” This support system can be difficult to find outside of the military, which is why it’s sometimes hard for veterans to transition into jobs after their service. It’s also why the Lab established its Veterans Employee Resource Group (VERG).
VERG recruits veterans to work at the Lab and connects them with mentors through its Veteran’s Mentoring Program. “We work with veterans and their families to help them adjust so they can hopefully find a place at the Lab,” says Bateman, who is now a Laboratory project manager and the current chair of VERG. “When you arrive at the Lab, you have a position, but where do you fit in? That’s what we help former military members discover.”
VERG also educates and empowers veterans through lectures, military birthday celebrations, and 9/11 and veterans memorial events. In June 2019, for example, Army veteran Josh Mantz visited the Lab as a guest speaker to talk about his brush with death: he was killed by a sniper in Baghdad in 2007 but was miraculously revived 15 minutes later. Events such as that talk, Bateman says, allow vets at the Lab to feel represented. Such events also help all employees better understand the veteran experience.
Bateman grew up in a military family and felt it was his duty to serve his country and stand up for those who couldn’t stand up for themselves. Many veterans have similar stories. VERG understands this mentality, Bateman says, and encourages veterans to support each other and find meaningful work at Los Alamos. “The veteran community can enhance the Lab culture of employees helping one another,” he says. “As a Los Alamos employee, you are contributing to something greater than any one person.”
Gold Star Vietnam veteran and former chair of the Los Alamos Veteran Committee, James Leslie Nesmith, passed away on December 9, 2019, at the age of 73. Nesmith was a driving force behind the effort to name the U.S. Navy’s next Virginia-class fast-attack submarine the USS Los Alamos in recognition of the contributions Los Alamos has made to the Navy.