Allegheny County offers free veterans symposium

For eight years, Richard Behana was a member of the U.S. Army. He served two tours of duty in Iraq, working psychological operations, a task he likened to “marketing democracy.”

Now, the 32-year-old East Liberty veteran is an entrepreneur. He directs Space Challenges Inc., a nonprofit that aims to promote science, technology, engineering and math education through a lunar exploration challenge, and he’s entrepreneur-in-residence at C-leveled in Bloomfield.

They are two very different jobs, but he said they require similar skills: passion, comfort with taking risks, ability to make decisions and a strong work ethic.

"A lot of the traits that you have, that are common in entrepreneurs, you see in veterans,“ he said.

Mr. Behana will deliver a speech Saturday that will focus on a topic with which he is familiar: finding success after service. His talk will be part of a daylong Veterans Symposium at Community College of Allegheny County’s Allegheny Campus.

The event — which will be held in the Foerster Student Services Center — was organized by the county, the college and the Allegheny County Common Pleas Court.

Veterans who attend can receive information about entrepreneurship, employment, obtaining health benefits, mental health, education and about legal issues. Also in attendance will be companies who are seeking veterans as employees.

"We just thought it was a good idea,” said Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald. “There’s a lot of veterans who have done some terrific work for us, on behalf of this nation, and certainly on behalf of this community.”

Now, the county is trying to offer some additional assistance to veterans, he said, by providing information and outreach.

“There’s a need to bring awareness to the veterans about the services that are out there, and available to them,” said Judge John A. Zottola, supervising judge of the Allegheny County Veterans Court, who will be speaking about the court’s duties at the event. Judge Zottola, one of the planners, said the symposium will include other presentations about housing, suicide prevention and legal issues — among others — for both veterans and their families.

The symposium begins at 8 a.m. Saturday with registration and a continental breakfast, with a formal opening ceremony set for 9 a.m.

Lunch will be provided free of charge. The symposium will conclude at 4 p.m.

The event itself is free and open to the public. Pre-registration is encouraged, but not required, by calling 412-350-6109 or visiting​veterans/​events.aspx#symposium and registering online.

The schedule for the day is also available on the same website.

Kaitlynn Riely: or 412-263-1707.

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