Veteran Advocate of the Year

Bruce V. Holderead’s dedication to veterans started early.

A veteran himself, Holderead served six years as a communications electronics technician with the U.S. Air Force and Air National Guard. In addition, his first job was working as a veteran’s representative on a college campus, helping veterans go to school with GI funds. Soon after, he went back to school on the GI Bill himself and studied counseling.

Now, for more than 24 years, he has been employed with the Department of Veterans Affairs. Serving as vocational rehabilitation and counseling division officer at the department’s regional office in Cleveland, Holderead is responsible for all aspects of vocational rehabilitation and counseling services for approximately 1,800 military veterans with disabilities.

However, his dedication extends beyond those services, says Lynn E. Johnson, counselor in charge in the Department of Veterans Affairs Columbus Office and Holderead’s nominator for the SBA’s Veteran Advocate of the Year award. Holderead won the award in both the district and state competitions.

“On a personal level,” Johnson writes, “Mr. Holderead is a very congenial fellow, who masterfully blends the human side of life with the achievements of the day. His intelligence, good nature and belief in the importance of his work is uniquely balanced by his attention to detail and ever-present awareness of big-picture progress.”

Johnson adds that Holderead is dedicated to his staff, acting as a supervisor and mentor and encouraging flexibility to accomplish the veterans affairs mission.

Since 1984, Holderead has been an advocate of self-employment programs for veterans with disabilities.

Holderead’s work has allowed veterans throughout Ohio start or expand their own businesses.

In 1998, he developed the Veterans Mean Business Conference to help veteran business owners learn how to do business with local, state and federal government.

The conference was expanded in 1999 to include Cincinnati and Cleveland and to aid veterans just starting their own businesses.

“We had about 250 veterans go through the training last year, and we’re hoping to increase that this year,” Holderead says. “The economy is changing a great deal, and more and more people are working on their own, either self-employed or semi self-employed.”

This year, Holderead plans to continue the conference in eight cities: Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Akron, Canton, Dayton, Toledo and Youngstown. Plans are just beginning for the conferences, he says, most of which will be held in November.

Holderead gets the most satisfaction out of his job in seeing the results of his assistance to veterans.

“I think the best part is when you see a disabled veteran who’s kind of down and out who gets the support they need, gets the services they need, the training and the assistance,” Holderead says.

They often call him to tell him about the good job they’ve nailed.

“A lot of folks come back year after year and say, ‘I’m still doing great; thanks for all the help you gave me,’” Holderead says. “That’s really rewarding.”

Joan Slattery Wall ([email protected]) is associate editor of SBN Columbus.