Airgas, Operation Homefront Bond to Help Vets

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 14, 2008 - In the next three years, an untold number of veterans of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan will benefit from a new partnership between two organizations who share only geographic proximity and a desire to honor servicemembers.

Airgas, a distributor of industrial, medical, specialty gases, and welding and safety products, recently launched what its chairman and chief executive officer described as a long-term program.

"We're kicking off a three-year program the way we look at it," Peter McCausland said, "but we're thinking that it's going to be a long-term program for Airgas."

The program began with Airgas' pledge to donate $100,000 a year for three years to Operation Homefront, a troop-support organization. The guidelines for the use of the funding stipulate that 70 percent of the funds must directly benefit wounded veterans or their families, McCausland said.

Another piece of the program is the company's commitment to hire 100 veterans of operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom in conjunction with Operation Homefront.

"We have over 15,000 employees, and the least we can do is make room for 100 veterans," McCausland said. "We felt like we wanted to do something tangible for individuals, and we have a lot of veterans in Airgas, so we know that they'll be happy."

For veterans who think they might be interested in learning the welding trade, Airgas also is offering its "Welding 101" course. While the company doesn't actually do welding, it also has the facilities, courses and certified welding engineers needed to offer the two days of classroom instruction and hands-on experience that serve as a good way to gauge interest in pursuing the trade further.

"The two days can get them started, and then we can direct them from there to the American Welding Society and other kinds of resources," McCausland said. "A lot of big companies run welding schools."

Operation Homefront is pleased with the opportunities the new partnership offers veterans, said Amy Palmer, the troop-support organization's chief operating officer.

"Airgas' 'Welding 101' is a significant training opportunity for many wounded warriors who need help finding a lucrative and steady job as they enter the civilian world," she said. "We appreciate Airgas' generous support for our job placement efforts for injured veterans who are transitioning to the civilian world."

At the community level, each of Airgas' 22 operating units across the country will develop relationships with local Operation Homefront representatives to work on events to support the organization through fundraising, direct assistance to veterans and other programs, he added.

The idea for the program grew from McCausland's wife's philanthropic activities benefitting veterans. Her work with veterans' causes may be a direct correlation to their son's service in Iraq. The former Marine's four-month deployment began on the fifth day of the war.

"My wife was very concerned about veterans from these two wars and the toll that it's taken them and their families," the Airgas chairman said. "We started to look for organizations around the country that would be [a good] fit for Airgas and that are providing services to veterans of these two conflicts and their families.

"Operation Homefront was one of about four or five of these organizations that we vetted, and we felt that it came out way ahead," McCausland added.

While Airgas is just kicking off the program with Operation Homefront, McCausland said his company is approaching it as a long-term commitment.

"We're very grateful for what these people and their families have done for the country, and this is just a way for Airgas to give back and show our collective support," he said.

Eligible veterans interested in participating in Airgas' welding training course or possible employment with Airgas should contact Operation Homefront, McCausland added.

Operation Homefront is a supporter of America Supports You, a Defense Department program connecting citizens and companies with servicemembers and their families serving at home and abroad.

*Related Sites:*
Operation Homefront  [ ]
Airgas, Operation Homefront Bond to Help Vets [ ]