Wiilliam Blackburn edits video at UTEP's Communication Department. (Lourdes Cueva Chacón/Borderzine.com)

The job search in civilian life can be another battle for veterans

EL PASO — I loved Army life. I had job security, and all the benefits like medical and dental care, but when I received a medical discharge after 13 years of service my life changed in unexpected ways. I was a sergeant, but I had to start over, looking for a new career at age 34. Like many veterans today, I know what it is to be unemployed. You may think that because you are a veteran you have an advantage – that you will get the job – but for unknown reasons in reality many veterans do not get the job they apply for.

Del Valle Marching Band director, Manuel Gamez has taken the band to the state competition three times – in 2003, 2005, and 2009. (William Blackburn/Borderzine.com)

High school marching-band students strive and strain to reach the state finals

EL PASO — The Socorro Activities Complex in east El Paso is filled with the blasting excitement of drums, brass and cheers on a warm Saturday afternoon in October as excited spectators root for area high school marching bands competing for a chance to appear at the state level in San Antonio. The Del Valle high school band has been rehearsing for this competition since August, practicing long hours every day, learning their marching steps and the music. It’s fun and it’s challenging. Aaron Gomez a sophomore told Borderzine “I enjoy learning new music and music is my passion and after high school I want to study music and receive a degree from a four-year university.”

Alex Verdugo, a senior leader for the French horn section said, “I motivate students and assist the band directors in what needs to be done.” He became a section leader through a lot of practice and auditioning for the job, he said. Juan Palacios a junior leader for the trumpets section said, “It’s a lot of hard work, but it is worth it in the end.”

Christina Boatman a sophomore told Borderzine she thinks Del Valle is the best band and “…the feeling that you gave it your all on the field is indescribable.”

Cindy Cruz a senior said the band also helps students with academics and she will miss being in the band after she graduates.

Paisano Valley Water Project In El Paso. (William Blackburn/Borderzine.com)

Bi-national projects lead to health benefits for border residents

EL PASO — The bi-national project Border 2012 aims to improve the environment of the border region and the health of nearly 12 million people through a partnership between the United States and México. The goals of Border 2012 are to reduce water contamination, reduce air pollution, reduce land contamination, improve environmental health, and emergency preparedness and response. Paving miles of highways in Sonora, México using asphalt pavement will reduce particulate matter in the air that leads to respiratory diseases. Protecting and preserving the U.S.-México border region by identifying, developing, implementing and overseeing these environmental infrastructure projects is the job of the Border Environment Cooperation Commission (BECC) headquartered in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico. Since 2005 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has authorized the BECC to manage $7.4 million for 144 Border 2012 projects.

The Texas Veteran Commision offices in El Paso where veterans can look for jobs and education. (William Blackburn/Borderzine.com)

Local organizations help military veterans find work

EL PASO – Veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq come home to face physical and emotional problems, but their biggest challenge may be the transition from military service to a job in civilian life. Along with the trauma of war, they left behind the security of a monthly paycheck to face the new uncertainty of a stagnant economy with little job growth. Navy veteran Danny Macias who left the military in 1994 has been working in construction but was laid off from a job in June and hasn’t found new work.  “Finding a job is hard” he said. The Army Career and Alumni Program (ACAP) at Fort Bliss was set up to help veterans transition to civilian life. Randy Stovall, Transition Services Manager, said the program’s main goal is to prepare soldiers to market themselves for employment.