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Recycle For Veterans gets help with California beach cleanup, raising awareness

Marine veteran Christian Ramon picks trash out of the jetty in Newport Beach on Saturday, October 24, 2020. Ramon said he found shirts, ropes, fishing wire, bottles, cans and trash bags. Some items were too hard to dislodge, he said. Ramon was volunteering with Recycle For Veterans.

MINDY SCHAUER, THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER/TNS

By ERIKA I. RITCHIE | The Orange County Register | Published: October 27, 2020

SANTA ANA, Calif. (Tribune News Service) — Kyle Hansen and Andrew Levin, two Marine veterans dedicated to cleaning up the environment while helping veterans find jobs, had some extra support at an event this weekend in Newport Beach.

Along with partnering on the beach cleanup Saturday, Oct. 24 — and helping with his family — Mayor Will O'Neill is trying to further raise awareness of Recycle For Veterans — started by the two former corporals after they finished their service in 2018.

While Marines are highly skilled at what they do, once out of the military, Hansen and Levin know from experience veterans can struggle to find civilian employment. By teaming up veterans with volunteers from local companies for beach cleanups, they are not only helping the environment, they are helping connect veterans with possible employers in more a relaxed environment.

"Folks that serve our country do so at a great cost. They make a lot less than some of their civilian counterparts. They are constantly moved around and put their lives on the line with the flag on their shoulders," O'Neill said. "Now it's our time to serve them. The better we can treat people when they're out of the service, the better we will be as a whole nation."

Each year, nearly 35,000 Marines transition to civilian life. At Camp Pendleton, it's about 9,000 annually.

In September, the veteran unemployment rate nationally was about 6.8%, up from 6.6% the previous month, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

The cleanup O'Neill partnered on at Blackies, a popular stretch of beach between the 28th Street jetty and the Newport Pier, was the first that Recycle for Veterans had sponsored by a city official — a level of exposure Hansen and Levin are hoping to get from other local city officials. O'Neill has also connected the pair with the International Executive Council, a group including executives, entrepreneurs and innovators.

"Mayor O'Neill already extended the invitation to host another one with the city of Newport Beach, which has us more excited than ever," Hansen said. "It's crucial to our mission that the city supports and backs us, like what we saw at this cleanup, it brings out local business leaders that come out and offer jobs."

Several businesses helped out on Saturday, including Dory Deli, Stag Bar & Kitchen and Blackies By-The-Sea.

During Saturday's cleanup, Recycle For Veterans not only picked 100 pounds of debris and trash off the beaches, but also held an educational session about why cleaning the beaches is so important.

"We're cleaning beaches and want to help businesses become more sustainable," Hansen said. "There are so many effects people don't even know about. Debris gets into the ocean and kills marine life. We don't only pick up the beach, but we're increasing awareness of beach pollution and educating people into action."

"It's a unique voice," O'Neill said of the two veterans and their efforts to raise awareness. "Some people will be more likely to listen to folks who just got out of the military, and that matters."

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