ST. GEORGE — As Utah’s employment numbers in many sectors show signs of improvement, the state’s unemployed veteran’s community is still trying to dig out from under the loss of jobs caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Utah Department of Workforce Services has selected Salt Lake City resident Capt. Jean Philippe “Phil” Martial as the new chief of veteran services to help combat employment insecurities and raise awareness of other state programs.
In his 19-year career in the United States Army, Martial has served as a medical logistician and human resources officer as well as other duty assignments. Since 2019, Martial has served as a company commander for the 76th Operational Base Command at the Stephen A. Douglas Armed Forces Reserve Center, Fort Douglas in Salt Lake City.
“I look forward to joining the Department of Workforce Services and supporting their efforts to help Utah’s military veterans and their families,” Martial said.
“I understand that veterans are often plagued with a number of issues ranging from homelessness, mental and behavioral health and employment issues,” he added. “There are no easy answers … but it’s my goal to passionately advocate for veterans, bring their concerns to the table … and advance the role of Workforce Services.”
Martial will begin his new career on Aug. 30.
“I think this will be a great transition for me from full-time military service while still being able to support everyone who served in uniform,” he said. “I think with my passion, enthusiasm and experience I will be able to advocate for my fellow veterans and their families who may be unemployed or under-employed.”
There are about 140,000 veterans living in Utah; however, many – especially in Southern Utah – are retired or considered not of working age.
According to the latest data collected by Workforce Services in 2020 – during the depths of the pandemic – the annual average unemployment figure among Utah’s veterans reached 5.6%. To put that percentage into perspective, said Christina Davis, communications director for Workforce Services, the annual average of unemployed veterans was 1.2% the previous year.
“My job is to bring solutions,” Martial said. “I don’t want to be part of the problem. I want to make things better for veterans … and their support system at home. I don’t claim to have all the answers, but I will work extremely hard to make myself available to educate our veterans about the services we offer.”
Martial’s military assignment leading a diverse, multi-generational staff of 240 soldiers, officers, and civilians may play an important role in meeting the varied needs of Utah’s veterans and their families.
Areas of Martial’s expertise include assignments in human resources, recruiting, logistics and project management. Passionate about engaging and meeting employees, Martial’s goal is to elevate anyone under his command to “embrace their greatness.”
Born and raised in Haiti, Martial’s family would visit the United States during his youth.
As with many who live in impoverished or oppressed societies, Martial always expressed a “love” and admiration for the U.S., a country he said is built upon the “American dream” where everyone deserves the chance for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
“I was one of the fortunate ones to be able to go to school in Haiti,” Martial said. “My parents really believed in the importance of education. Financially we were not well off, but they understood the value of school.”
From an early age, “probably seven or eight,” Martial said his dream was to become a soldier.
“The military is something I’m really passionate about,” Martial added. “My dad once told me military service was my destiny.”
At the age of 20, Martial immigrated to America permanently. Living in Florida, New York and New Jersey before a move in 1999 to Salt Lake City, he has enjoyed the Beehive State’s affordable cost of living compared to the east coast, and the joy of being close to family living in Utah.
“I love it here,” Martial said.
In 2002, Martial joined the U.S. Army Reserve as an enlisted soldier and eventually would become a commissioned officer.
“I was able to come to America, pursue my education while also joining the Army Reserve,” he said. ” I wanted everyone to know that all of the hard work they put in was not going to be in vain. It meant the world to me to have my parents’ support.”
Martial has a master’s degree in organizational leadership from Argosy University and a bachelor’s degree in social work from the University of Utah.
“Capt. Martial brings valuable experience both as a serviceman and a proven leader who understands the importance of helping veterans, military members and their spouses move forward in their work during this time of economic recovery,” said Workforce Services Executive Director Casey Cameron in a prepared statement.
For access to other veteran’s support services visit Utah Veterans Alliance.
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