A U.S, Army dog handler from the Vietnam War years who, from his modest Front Royal office, helps find jobs for wounded veterans across the nation, on Sept. 27 will receive the highest honor bestowed by the military on a civilian in a Pentagon ceremony.
Skip Rogers who, with his family, operates a unique non-profit called “Able Forces” on Chester Street, was selected by the U.S. Marine Corps to receive the “2018 Department of Defense Spirit of Hope Award” in the Pentagon’s Hall of Heroes.
The citation recognizes Rogers, a Warren County resident since 2009, as one “who epitomizes the values of duty, honor, courage, loyalty, commitment, integrity, and selfless dedication (and) significantly enhance(s) the quality of life of service members and their families serving around the world; and selflessly contribute(s) an extraordinary amount(s) of time, talent or resources to benefit service members.”
“Able Forces” provides aid, comfort, and job training for “worthwhile” jobs for wounded veterans returning from war zones such as Iraq and Afghanistan.
In an interview last September, Rogers, 69, told me: “We address the critical employment and training needs of combat-injured veterans, and all disabled veterans. We are here for our nation’s heroes suffering from severe physical disabilities, PTSD and traumatic brain injury.” Read story here
For this, he was chosen to receive the high Defense Department award. Also, on Tuesday, Sept. 18, Rogers will be honored by the service that selected him, the U.S. Marine Corps, in a separate ceremony led by a Marine general.
Since 1998, each of the armed services has nominated one civilian for the “Spirit of Hope” award. Rogers’s name was advanced by a U.S. Army vet, Carlos Melendez, who has worked closely with Rogers over the years as a civilian advocate for the wounded.
“He told me he was going to do it and I said okay, not really believing anything would come of it,” Rogers told me in a more recent interview (Sept. 10) in his Chester Street office. Rogers said he was “surprised” when Melendez told him in July he “thought I was in line” for the award.
Rogers calls his team, which, apart from his family, includes Joe Cunningham, a business partner for some 36 years, and Stephen Carter, an Army veteran, “Caretakers of the Dream.”
“Basically, Rogers said, “we help families in crisis…we are here for our nation’s heroes suffering severe disabilities.”
He estimated he and his small cadre of workers – wife Kathy, vice president for operations; daughter Lisa Salomon, accountant; Cunningham and Carter – 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 called the “Community Rehabilitation Program.”
Note: Rogers, a Californian, rarely uses his first names. He has answered to “Skip” most of his life. He says that’s the name that will be on the DoD citation but not, we believe, on his income tax return!