Veterans graduate from Back-to-Work Boot Camp in Des Plaines

  • Kevin Brown of Prospect Heights, center, graduated Thursday night from the Veterans Back-to-Work Boot Camp. Also pictured, from left, are mentor Jim Melchert of Crystal Lak , Eileen Brown, vice president/director of strategic marketing and innovation at the Daily Herald Media Group, Andrea Biwer, executive director at the Chamber of Commerce & Industry, and Marne Deithorn, director of human resources at Rivers Casino.

      Kevin Brown of Prospect Heights, center, graduated Thursday night from the Veterans Back-to-Work Boot Camp. Also pictured, from left, are mentor Jim Melchert of Crystal Lak , Eileen Brown, vice president/director of strategic marketing and innovation at the Daily Herald Media Group, Andrea Biwer, executive director at the Chamber of Commerce & Industry, and Marne Deithorn, director of human resources at Rivers Casino. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Veteran Cody Camacho, second from right, of Des Plaines graduated Thursday night from Veterans Back-to-Work Boot Camp during a ceremony at the American Legion Post 36 Hall in Des Plaines. Also pictured are mentor Jim Melchert of Crystal Lake, Eileen Brown, vice president/director of strategic marketing and innovation at the Daily Herald Media Group, and Marne Deithorn, director of human resources at Rivers Casino.

      Veteran Cody Camacho, second from right, of Des Plaines graduated Thursday night from Veterans Back-to-Work Boot Camp during a ceremony at the American Legion Post 36 Hall in Des Plaines. Also pictured are mentor Jim Melchert of Crystal Lake, Eileen Brown, vice president/director of strategic marketing and innovation at the Daily Herald Media Group, and Marne Deithorn, director of human resources at Rivers Casino. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Eric Enderle of Palatine, second from right, was among 17 veterans who graduated Thursday from Des Plaines Chamber of Commerce & Industry's third annual Back-to-Work Boot Camp. Also pictured are mentor Jim Melchert of Crystal Lake, Eileen Brown, vice president/director of strategic marketing and innovation at the Daily Herald Media Group, and Marne Deithorn, director of human resources at Rivers Casino.

      Eric Enderle of Palatine, second from right, was among 17 veterans who graduated Thursday from Des Plaines Chamber of Commerce & Industry's third annual Back-to-Work Boot Camp. Also pictured are mentor Jim Melchert of Crystal Lake, Eileen Brown, vice president/director of strategic marketing and innovation at the Daily Herald Media Group, and Marne Deithorn, director of human resources at Rivers Casino. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

 
By Jean Murphy
Daily Herald correspondent
Updated 11/8/2019 6:11 AM

Seventeen recent military veterans graduated Thursday night from the 10-week Des Plaines Chamber of Commerce & Industry's third annual Veterans Back-to-Work Boot Camp during a ceremony at the American Legion Post 36 Hall in Des Plaines.

"The idea for this program began more than two years ago as we listened to concerns from the business community about their challenges in finding the right employees to fill open positions," explained Andrea Biwer, the chamber's executive director.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"At the same time, we kept hearing about the number of fabulous men and women who were having a hard time finding the right job after returning from active military service. It didn't take long to connect the dots."

And those dots have been connected well. Enthusiastic graduates had nothing but praise for the program and the volunteers who mentored them.

"This program gave me lots of confidence and made me feel more professional," said Elvis Gutierrez of Elgin. "I came out of the Marines 10 years ago, after serving in Afghanistan, and it took this program to finally get me out of my shell."

Jahzeel Avila of Arlington Heights is still serving in the Army because he has been reluctant to leap back into civilian life. But now that he has connected with civilian resources, he is considering making that move and hopes to become a nurse.

Cody Camacho of Des Plaines spent 16 years in the Army, serving in Iraq, Kuwait and Germany before leaving the military in 2016. It took the recent boot camp to teach him how to network and to give him the confidence to move into a new career or to start his own business.

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"He has been pretty depressed since he got out of the military. But this boot camp has brought him out of that. It was a great move for him," added his wife, Chyla.

Marne Deithorn, lead boot camp mentor, director of human resources at the Rivers Casino and a Marine Corps veteran, told the graduates that each of them is "unique and unrepeatable."

"I urge you to continue to display honor, courage and commitment in your civilian lives," she said "Serve your employer with integrity and respect. Step out of your comfort zone and lead by example. And show determination in the face of adversity. Don't let an obstacle become an excuse.

"Know that we all struggle in life -- with self-doubt, depression and heartache. But life is not about how many times we fall down. It is about how many times we get back up."

This year the boot camp program was sponsored by the Rivers Casino and supported by Amita Health, WINTRUST, The Home Depot, VFW Post 2992, American Legion Post 36 and others.

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