Volunteers focus on helping veterans

vets (Download Image) Lawrence Livermore employees Bill Oliver (left) and Lee Neely, volunteer their time to veterans organization and causes.

Editor's Note: This is one in a series of articles about Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory employees who volunteer for various non-profit agencies. This is just a sampling.


The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) Helping Others More Effectively (HOME) Campaign is under way, a time when Lab employees focus their attention to helping those in need in the community through donations and volunteer efforts.

With Veterans Day earlier this week, it is the perfect time to highlight Lab employees who are dedicated to supporting veteran’s causes and who volunteer their time and effort to support the events and activities conducted year-round to help these unsung heroes.

The Lawrence Livermore Laboratory Armed Forces Veterans Association (LLAFVA) is a Laboratory networking group that strives to raise awareness of veterans causes and provides scholarships to veterans through fundraising efforts. Two members of the LLLAFVA, Lee Neely and Bill Oliver, volunteer for LLLAFVA sponsored events as well as for outside veterans’ organizations.

Lee Neely

Lee Neely has worked at Lawrence Livermore since 1986 and is currently a senior IT security professional in the cyber security program. Neely has volunteered his time outside of work the past 10 years to helping improve the lives of veterans, whether through fundraising, promoting the yearly Lab Ride or serving Veterans Day breakfast to residents at the Livermore VA Medical Center.

"Because they give so much to us to insure the continuance of our way of life," Neely says about why he volunteers for veterans organizations. "My wife, LLNL retiree Chelle Clements, is a Vietnam era veteran. She was in the Army Corps of Engineers back when women represented 2 percent of the military," he said. "My father was in the Navy, as was his father and many other family members, which is why I donate what I can to veterans' causes."

Neely and his wife are the website coordinators for East Bay Stand Down. Stand Down is a military term describing the removal of combat troops from the field to provide for their basic needs in a safe area. The East Bay Stand Down began in 1999 and is a four-day outreach program held every other year in September at the Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton. The event  is a consortium of community organizations coming together to help homeless and at-risk military veterans living in the Bay Area, connecting them with needed services such as medical, dental, emergency shelter, financial and legal help. To view photos or learn more about volunteer opportunities for the East Bay Stand Down, visit its website.

Neely also supports The Diablo Valley Veterans Foundation, the HOME Campaign organization that collects donations to support the East Bay Stand Down and other organizations that support veterans.  Donating to The Diablo Valley Veterans Association through the HOME Campaign helps the more than 7,000 needy or homeless veterans get the services they need.

Bill Oliver

Bill Oliver worked at LLNL since 1996. He is a computer scientist and code developer matrixed from Computation to  Engineering. He also is an active supporter of the LLLAFVA and outside veterans’ organizations. In 1979, Oliver left the U.S. Navy after completing five years as a nuclear submarine officer. As a veteran, he is passionate about helping other veterans.

Oliver has found a unique way to help veterans through education. "Three years ago, I joined the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars posts in Pleasanton in a time when the unemployment rate was high and even higher in the veterans’ community," Oliver said.  "I started out by setting up seminars for veterans on interviewing skills and resume writing." He soon realized he needed some help due to the demand being so high for these services. He looked to his coworkers at LLNL and recruited Beth McCormick, Michele Michael and Lee Bennett from the LLNL Strategic Human Resources Department to help. "I coordinated the once-a-month sessions by working with Las Positas College’s Veterans Coordinator, Todd Steffan. The Lab team tirelessly donated their time after hours to conduct the seminars," he said.

This effort has evolved into the Lab’s Veteran Outreach program, coordinated by McCormick. As a result, Las Positas veterans have interned at the Lab over the last two years creating a partnership between LLNL and Las Positas which has been very successful. See Newsline for more information on this program.

"Many veterans are struggling," Oliver said. "I have experienced some of the same frustrations and barriers veterans are facing, which is why helping veterans transition from military service to civilian life is a top priority for me".

Through his collaboration with Las Positas, Oliver realized veterans pursuing an education needed books. Oliver set up a book assistance program two years ago through the Home Campaign specifically for veterans at Las Positas College. The Ambrose D. Regalia Veterans of Foreign Wars, Post 6298 in Pleasanton provides money for textbooks for veterans in need. These veterans are saving their GI Bill benefits until they can move on to a four-year college. "Most of these veterans have returned from war and I found the choice they had to make regarding paying the rent versus purchasing text books unacceptable. So, I set up a way that Lab employees can donate to the Home Campaign," Oliver said.  

The money that is donated to the Ambrose D. Regalia VFW in Pleasanton through the HOME Campaign is sent to Las Positas College for this initiative. Credits are set up in the bookstore for those veterans who are not using their GI Bill benefits for the upcoming term.

Oliver also has been actively working with Congressman Eric Swalwell to address backlog issues related to the VA health care and has coordinated town hall meetings at the Pleasanton Veterans Memorial Building for Swallwell to meet with veterans and hear their concerns.  "To make a change, you need to take action," Oliver said.

"We veterans need to do everything we can to help each other because we are all in this together," Oliver said.  "When I served in submarines we had a saying, ‘we either all come to the surface or no one comes to the surface.’ "