LIVERMORE -- Patti Ising has always had a connection to the military, but now she's taking that personal interest and using it to benefit veterans and active-duty service members throughout the city.
As Livermore's community representative to the U.S. military, Ising works to connect military personnel to educational, medical and social services and serves as a conduit between Livermore and various veterans' organizations.
"There are a lot of groups in this valley, and not a lot of them know what the other does," she said. "We're seeing how we can pull all of this together."
Ising's involvement with the military began early -- her father was a naval officer for more than 18 years. Later, she flew for 15 years as an international flight attendant, spending six of those years on military flights in the Pacific theater during the Vietnam War.
In recent years, Ising kept in contact with military sources via her work with the Livermore Rodeo. As a longtime organizer of the event's grand entry ceremony, she was responsible for making sure the yearly event included military representation. Three years ago she spearheaded Livermore's "Wrangler Patriot Program," helping to design and sell patriotic T-shirts. Proceeds from that project -- $3,000 in 2011, 2012 and 2013 -- were donated to the national Wounded Warrior Project. When her predecessor, Marilyn Carter, stepped down from the community representative position in late 2013, Ising was a natural choice to replace her. Appointed by Livermore Mayor John Marchand, Ising's volunteer position involves continual liaison work between area veterans groups, recruiting offices, the Livermore Division of the VA Palo Alto Health Care System, and the city. A strong focus for Ising is the Veterans First program at Las Positas College, where veterans are offered educational and other resources to help transition back to civilian life.
Todd Steffan, coordinator of the program, works frequently with Ising.
"I think this is a great way for vets to have a voice and support from Livermore," he said. "Not all cities do that. All of the cities in the Tri-Valley are supportive of veterans, but it's nice to have someone who has this as their main focus -- to connect veterans with the city. If every city could do this it would be really cool."
Ising's goals range from working with the city to keep the Livermore VA hospital open to advocating for employment and scholarship opportunities for returning veterans.
"I can't think of a veteran who comes home whom we don't welcome; that's a program that started way back with Mayor Dale Turner," she said. "We're also trying to find scholarship money; there are nonprofit groups who have scholarship money they want to give out, and they may need some direction to do it."
Livermore Mayor John Marchand said Ising shares his strong commitment to members of the military.
"We can never allow our nation to forget the commitment we made to the men and women in the armed forces," he said. "(Ising) absolutely has my ear. If something's going on and the city can help in any way, we're here.
"What she brings is a passion for service; for serving the community and for serving the men and women in the military, and that's in her blood -- she certainly comes by it honestly," he added. "Because she has such a strong understanding of it is why she has such compassion."
Ising's commitment to the program is a boon for all past and present members of the military in Livermore, said Las Positas' Steffan.
"She's very passionate, you can tell," he said. "Overall, everyone in the Tri-Valley is supportive of veterans, but sometimes you see individuals whose main passion is serving returning veterans, and she's one of those people. I saw that from Day One.
"I'm excited she's taking on that role -- it'll benefit our community, but most importantly it will benefit our veterans."
Need some short-term help around the house? Consider hiring a veteran.
The Veterans First Program at Las Positas College is seeking part-time, full-time and temporary employment for area veterans faced with losing their GI benefits during summer break from classes.
A change in the past several years means that while GI benefit recipients receive the same amount of educational and housing support, they are unable to draw those funds while not actively enrolled in classes, said Todd Steffan, coordinator of Las Positas' Veterans First Program.
"Post-9-11, veterans no longer get break pay," he said. "If there is a gap between fall and spring classes, for example, their payment stops. It makes it hard, especially in summer. A lot of the student veterans are not just single individuals; a lot have spouses and children to support."
A part-time job from a local employer or even a day or weekend job offered by an area resident can go a long way toward easing that financial shortfall, Steffan said.
"To pick up a job for five weeks makes a difference," he said "It's always great when community members can offer a job, even if it's just for the weekend or for a couple of days and our returning veterans have so much talent and skill."
To inquire about hiring an area veteran, call Steffan at 925-424-1571.