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Why Not a Tribute?

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

by Rich Fritzky

Shortly after returning home after a 15 month exile in hospitals and rehabs, an exile that was complicated by near death and comas and surgeries and atrophy and amputations, an exile that stripped me of both legs and all but the stub of one finger, Jeff Klare, the founder and chief executive officer of Hire Disability Solutions, somehow came rumbling into my life.

I met him through the Meadowlands Regional Chamber of Commerce where I had once long served. But in my post apocalyptic, disabled and dependent life, I held on to only 2 vestiges of a once great purpose driven working life. The door to teaching at Fairleigh Dickinson University remained open, but online, which scared me for two reasons – the first, because I was a technological dinosaur and the second, because I was an in-your-face warrior in and lover of the classroom.

So I was holding on to those hallowed halls by the fingernails that I no longer had. Then too, my old friend, Jim Kirkos at the Chamber, welcomed my continued contributions to Meadowlands USA, a magazine that I had edited for more than 25 years.

Both allowed me to work from home, a now essential component of my new and non-driving world. As luck would have it, an early assignment from Jim sent me off to write an article about Hire Disability Solutions, an assignment that introduced me to the great passions and visions of Jeff Klare. In the course of conversation, he was introduced to my history and I to his and I came away with great respect for him and he somehow for me.

He proceeded to invite me to some of his organizations many events and he asked me to be an “expert” contributor for one of his outreach arms, for which I did answer some heartfelt and tender questions and do a bit of good. He also invited to be the keynote speaker at a Bergen Community College Conference in 2010 aimed at getting more companies to look to the great benefits of hiring the disabled.

Then too, he and his Hire Disability Solutions also became tremendous supporters of my Friends of Rich Fritzky Trust, where their perennial presence at our Annual Giants Banquet mightily helped to sustain its success.

So having recently determined to throw off the yoke of Social Security Disability, to relight the fires of productive capacity, and to begin altering the paradigm of dependency that had become my life, I set off to work more (speaking, teaching, writing, consulting, etc.) But having enhanced the relationship with FDU and garnered a couple of additional writing assignments and having, at least, produced more than disability had, I still wasn’t taking the bite out of the dependency on the Trust that I had hoped to.

So I penned one of those almost desperate, “can you think of any work for me to do, old friend” emails and fired them off to the unsuspecting. Within an hour, surprisingly and unexpectedly, Jeff Klare responded, talked a bit about their Newsletter, sung the praises of their upcoming “To Be a Hero, Hire a Hero” jobs fair, invited me to write 2 articles a month for the Newsletter, and said that he’d leave the topics each month to me.

Had I asked, I know that he would have said no to this, but hey, the topic was mine to choose. So I decided that it was best to salute my immersion into this world by saluting and paying tribute to the man responsible for this world in the first place, a friend who goes above and beyond and who wears his passions on his sleeve.

With that in mind, I looked at all recent posts on his website, looked at the articles that were referenced, and traced his unrelenting stream of consciousness on Facebook. One of the most impassioned articles was the Huffington Post’s, “Out of Work, Out of War” piece’ which had a Jeff Klare thematic underpinning. The conclusion read:

“We need to ensure the skills they’ve learned in the field transfer into the certifications they need to perform those same duties at home,” Sen. Murray, who is the chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, wrote in an email. “We need to improve outreach and oversight of current administration efforts to address this problem, and we have to eliminate the stigma many veterans feel is attached to their service because of the invisible wounds of war.”

Sound familiar! In the wake of the historic Jobs Fair at the New Yorker in May, Jeff was quoted by CBS as saying, “Many of the service members come back and they don’t know how to tell their story – to tell the story of how does a person who has operated a .50 caliber machine gun fit into JP Morgan Chase. And those who can tell their story, be it as a welder or medical technician or electrician find that their story is non transferable because of certifications or unionization or what have you. Committed, loyal, and dedicated, they drift and there is no excuse for it.”

On this subject, Jeff Klare has advocated, urged, coddled, praised, and begged people to step forward and to become part of the solution. The day after the fair, he noted that 100 veterans were already hired, as a result of Hire Disability Solutions’ effort, but there was no satisfaction, only continued urgency. It had to be more than 100!

Tired and relentless, he reminds everyone to, “Get ready for the “Be a Hero Bike Ride” on September 25th.” From the George Washington Bridge to West Point, he urges everyone to start training and to help raise money for the children of those killed in the line of duty.

He regularly uses words like hero or triumph and he betrays his own relentless commitment with quotes like, “Are you a giver or a taker” or “Words don’t mean anything, actions mean everything,” or “People only appreciate what they are missing, never what is right there in front of their own noses,” or “Some of the biggest companies in America talk about how much they want to help our veterans and then do nothing.

Go figure.” And in light of Starbucks refusal to get involved with the Fair, he sings Dunkin Donuts praises.

To his 1773, friends, he unleashes his passions and his frustration, and his unbridled commitment to all disabled jobs seekers and dreamers, veterans and non-veterans alike. Tired, frustrated, edgy, happy, grateful, he is all of that and more, in his making a profound difference, day by lonely day.

Yes that was 1773 friends and growing, I am sure, and I am proud to be one among them.