Jon Stewart’s Secret Boot Camp Helps Veterans Fulfill Their Dreams

Jon Stewart might be one of the Iraq War’s staunchest critics, but the Daily Show host is willing to go out of his way to help the veterans.

According to the New York Times, for the past three years, Stewart has been running a “five-week industry boot camp” that helps veterans make their way into the television industry. The Daily Show host explained that it’s not charity, it’s a program to make up for inroads veterans missed out on by going off to war.

“There are well-worn channels into this industry that are closed off to veterans. You get into the television industry generally by going to certain colleges known for having good television programs, getting internships and getting to know people who work in the industry. A lot of veterans never had that opportunity because they were busy at war. This is a way to give them that chance.”

Many veterans end up being channeled into government positions with preferential hiring practices, or large corporations that have similar programs. That limits a lot of veterans from breaking into show business.

The New York Times article highlighted Nathan Witmer, who went to Iraq in 2008 and led an Army scout platoon.

After selling medical equipment for two years, Jon Stewart’s program gave him a chance to do what he really wanted, which is “anything with movies.”

“We hear ‘Thank you for your service’ all the time, but here was concrete action, people working to really make a difference. And it changed lives. I’m proof of that.”

Ironically, Witmer went on to join Fox News, Jon Stewart’s arch-nemesis and favorite punchline.

Jon Stewart kept the program secret for years, but now he’s just a few months away from retiring from the show. As previously reported by the Inquisitr, he’ll be replaced by Trevor Noah on September 28.

Before Stewart goes, he wants the program to become public and, hopefully, recreated elsewhere.

“This is ready to franchise. Please steal our idea. It isn’t charity. To be good in this business you have to bring in different voices from different places, and we have this wealth of experience that just wasn’t being tapped.”

The program started in 2013, when the mentoring group American Corporate Partners asked Jon Stewart to help a veteran get a job. The comedy show host wanted to do more to breach the disparate cultures of creative Hollywood and the hard-nosed military.

So the boot camp was born. Each class has about 24 members, and they meet once a week in the evening to get an in-depth look at behind-the-scenes fields like editing and talent booking.

Whether other shows will take Jon Stewart’s lead and steal his idea seems unclear, but the program, which ends in a career fair, has already put a number of veterans in show business jobs.

Jon Stewart’s former protege and late-night colleague, Stephen Colbert, has also been making the headlines for being a good Samaritan. According to Salon, he recently raised about $800,000 to fund every teacher crowdfunding project in South Carolina.

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