"The Daily Show's" outgoing host Jon Stewart has been one of the fiercest critics of the Iraq War, yet it turns out he has been supporting its veterans with an intensive TV-training boot-camp for soldiers that's been kept a secret mission until now.
The five-week program is designed to prepare veterans for careers in broadcast media, a field historically absent of military types. The course began in 2013 after Stewart was contacted to take a veteran under his wing when he decided to expand on the idea with a full-fledged workshop to impart experience in producing, booking talent and editing for on-air broadcast, The New York Times reports.
"There are well-worn channels into this industry that are closed off to veterans," Stewart told the Times. "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."
As Stewart is closing up shop at "The Daily Show," he is now speaking publicly about the program with the hope that other organizations will create similar initiatives to bring more veterans into showbiz.
"This is ready to franchise. Please steal our idea," Stewart said.
One time platoon-leader Nathan Witmer, who left active-duty in Iraq in 2010, had always aspired to a career in the entertainment business. "Anything with the movies was always the dream," Witmer told the Times.
After taking the five-week training intensive at "The Daily Show," in which a class of 24 vets meet once a week and culminates in a career fair, Witmer had picked up work at Fox News and then returned to "The Daily Show' as a field segment producer. "It was actually inspirational," he said.
Stewart endorsed the veterans he had hired as "way less whiny" than most of his subordinates.