Two Generations, One Mission: Veterans Day Through the Eyes of Those Who Keep Serving

For SCSEP Elyria Project Director, John Roberts, servings others is in his blood. The proud retired Marine – though as he points out, “Once a Marine, always a Marine” – comes from long line of servicemen. His family’s blood, sweat, and tears have graced every battlefront this country has faced, from the Revolutionary War to the most recent conflicts in Iraq. For Roberts, his service didn’t end upon his retirement from the Marines. Rather, he has found a new way to serve – through helping older adults find gainful employment and independence through VANTAGE Aging’s SCSEP program.

John Roberts, SCSEP Elyria Project Director

Richard Scarborough, SCSEP Records Specialist, tells a similar tale, though a generation ahead of Roberts. After spending three years in the Army, with his boots on the ground in Korea and Vietnam, Scarborough came back home to continue serving those who need it most. “I have always had a soft spot for the underdog,” Scarborough says thoughtfully. “I always want to help pull the underdog up to become their best. I was that way in the Army, and I am that way now.” Scarborough’s full-circle history with VANTAGE Aging dates back decades, first as the founder of a nonprofit in Alliance, The Hope House, which served as a host site for SCSEP participants, then as a SCSEP participant, and now as a records specialist for the program that gave him new life. He also was a pastor in Alliance while directing the day to day operation of the Hope House. However, driving 84 miles a day, seven days a week for twenty years finally caught up with him and shut him down for several months.  Coming back to Vantage Aging as a SCSEP participant brought him back from burnout and depression and restored him to his normal self.  He completely credits the agency for his restoration.  Scarborough also gives back his time and talents as a RSVP volunteer.

Richard Scarborough, SCSEP Records Specialist

Though the two are a generation apart, they shared a lot of similar experiences during around their military service. John Roberts was a Marine engineer during two duties in Iraq, working with his hands and his mind to help solve problems and keep things moving for his fellow Marines. Scarborough worked in the transportation department in the Army, which informed his lifelong love of all things transportation and even fueled him to get an associate’s degree in transportation, as well as his private pilot’s license, after his service. As both of them held very in-demand positions while in their respective branches, it is this respect for the importance and impact of every job that leads the mission of both men here at VANTAGE – imparting the knowledge that every job matters helps the seniors we serve see the validity in their work. There are no small jobs in the military, as there are no small jobs here for our SCSEP participants.

Both Roberts and Scarborough expressed similar emotions regarding their service. While Roberts speaks of his service with pride and confidence, he also expressed a bit of nervousness around his deployments to Iraq. He found camaraderie with his fellow Marines and knew that together, they would be able to do anything better than he could do on his own. Scarborough shared the sentiment. Richard was only 17 when he joined, and was sent to Korea at age 18. As it was his first time out of the country, he was very nervous – his Army career started on a ship to Korea in the Pacific Ocean for 30 days with 5,000 other men, so tempers became quick and he notes “food became currency.” However, he knew that he could count on his brothers in arms to help drive the success of their missions. It was this brotherhood that led him to his passion for music, one he continues to pursue today.

This lesson, the need to come together to do great things, is one they both carry with them into their everyday work with VANTAGE Aging’s SCSEP participants. Those seniors seeking job skills enhancement and placements can trust that success will come their way through working together with our incredible SCSEP staff and their fellow job seekers. It is the importance of teamwork and collaboration that both Roberts and Scarborough embodied during their service and carry with them in their work today. “It never mattered who you were or where you came from,” Roberts remarks. “At the end of the day, we all had to come together, as we do now as a nation, to collaborate and fight all enemies – foreign and domestic – with the same goal in mind.” And that goal during his service, he says, was to defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Though the fight may look a little different for SCSEP job seekers, the goal of a life on their own terms, with full independence, autonomy, and self-sufficiency, is always top of mind for Roberts in his work.

Veterans Day means something different to someone if they’ve served. For Roberts and Scarborough, it means a day of reflection, pride, and reverence for all that veterans do for our country. While both express concern that veterans are not always treated as they ought to be in this country, both men still speak about their veteran status with humility and pride. When discussing his Marine career, Roberts isn’t boastful, though he has every reason to be. Twenty years of service is nearly unheard of in any industry today, but for Roberts, it was what he loved to do. Coming out of the Marines, he learned quickly how hard it can be for veterans to acclimate back into a regular, civilian life, and he hopes that employers can also respect that struggle during the Veterans transition period. “It took me a while to figure out what I wanted to do, because I wasn’t able to do the job I had done for twenty years anymore,” he says. “Vets just don’t come out of their service ready to live normal lives. It is important for vets to access the services we need to become better acclimated.” He cites the statistic that “every day, another 22 veterans die by suicide,” which furthers his point about vets needing all support – physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual – in order to come back from their service stronger and ready for every day life again.

Scarborough echoes the sentiment when it comes to veterans needing support and respect, two things they don’t seem to get enough of. Scarborough sees a lack of respect and honor for vets more now than there used to be, but he is quick to point out that some places do go out of their way to honor veterans and their sacrifices. “It isn’t like it used to be,” he says. “It makes me sad to see.” Even without the celebratory pomp and circumstance once afforded to veterans of generations past, Scarborough and Roberts both state firmly and without a doubt that they were proud to serve then, and they are unequivocally proud to serve now – though the roles may require a gentler hand and calmer voice than military life, both of them draw on their experiences in the military to shape who they are and how they continue to serve others today.

This Veterans Day, and every day, we at VANTAGE Aging honor and thank the sacrifices of all veterans, of all walks of life and generations. Thank you so very much for your service.

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