FRONT ROYAL – In a small suite of offices on Front Royal’s historic Chester Street, a U.S. Army dog handler from the Vietnam War years found his true calling — helping wounded veterans find jobs and providing support for their families.
It was in 2009 that Skip Rogers, Joe Cunningham, U.S. Navy, and Skip’s wife, Kathy, having found their way from Fairfax County to Front Royal, realized their dream, the establishment of a unique non-profit they called “Able Forces.” The company provides aid and comfort and specifically job training and jobs for vets returning from war zones such as Iraq and Afghanistan.
“We address the critical employment and training needs of combat injured veterans, and all disabled veterans,” Rogers said in an interview with the Royal Examiner. “We are here for our nation’s heroes suffering from severe physical disabilities, PTSD and traumatic brain injury.”
That the veterans’ travails, from joblessness to hopelessness to an inability to provide for their families, are always in the sights of executive director Rogers and his small Front Royal-based crew (“Caretakers of the Dream”) quickly became obvious to this reporter.
“Basically, we help families in crisis,” Rogers said from behind his office desk, surrounded by depictions of military actions from the Civil War to Iwo Jima. A folded U.S. flag, flown over the Pentagon to commemorate last year’s anniversary of 9/11, is carefully folded on the table before him.
Rogers estimates he and his small cadre of workers have helped settle “several hundred wounded, ill, or otherwise injured veterans” principally by placing them in jobs, not just any jobs but employment with a future, in various parts of the country. “Able Forces” accomplishes this through a network of government and civilian contractors which is defined as a Community Rehabilitation Program.
The staff includes his wife, Kathy, vice president for operations; Joe, his business partner of 35 years; daughter Lisa Salomon, accountant; and Stephen Carter. Carter, an army vet, joined “Able Forces” staff in 2013.
Rogers’ working relationships for “Able Forces,” include the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs; the U.S. Department of Labor; the national Wounded Warriors Program; Air Force and Coast Guard; state employment agencies (VET); and community veterans organizations.
A Californian born in San Jose 68 years ago, Rogers enlisted in the army after completing high school, later graduated college with a degree in behavioral science and earned a master’s degree from Stamford University. He provided in-patient care in psychiatric hospitals, then opted for a career in Silicon Valley, ultimately publishing a niche book, “Who, what, where when…in Silicon Valley.” Meanwhile, Kathy, legally blind since 1980, opened her own business, “Hasty Gathering,” specializing in a clothing line.
Note: Rogers’ declined to give his first name. His business card says “Skip,” his website says “Skip,” he’s been known as “Skip” almost all his life and sees no reason to change.
So, “Skip,” thanks for all you and “Able Forces” do for our disabled war heroes. Front Royal should be proud of you.