Army veteran Pedro Colon Jr. says his acceptance into a new federal program to train unemployed military veterans for high-demand jobs is life changing.

Colon, 52, of Youngstown, is one of the first in Mahoning County to be accepted for the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program, a part of the VOW to Hire Heroes Act.

He begins training Sept. 4 at the Mahoning County Career and Technical Center in Canfield to become a medical assistant and expects to graduate a year later.

Colon, a 1978 graduate of Ursuline High School who was an Army medical laboratory specialist from 1980-84, has done what U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown and officials of the Mahoning County Veterans Service Commission want other jobless veterans to do — apply for the program.

Brown had a press conference Monday at the service commission’s office at Oakhill Renaissance Place to promote the program and encourage eligible Mahoning Valley veterans to apply.

The retraining program focuses on older veterans between 35 and 60 who are not eligible for any other Department of Veterans Affairs education benefit program.

“Service members who risk their lives protecting our nation should not have to wonder whether they’ll be able to find a job when they leave the service. Unfortunately, many do, and that’s not right,” Brown said.

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