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April 19, 2014

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J. Patrick Coolican:

Young veterans searching for work after serving the country deserve support

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Sam Morris

Army Sgt. Frank Reyes, in town for the Wounded Warriors event, listens to Michelle Saunders during a workshop on resume building at the Hire Our Heros job fair Thursday, May 17, 2012.

Hire Our Heroes Job Fair

Lockheed Martin's Sim Garriott and Stephanie DaVilla share a laugh during the Hire Our Heros job fair event for military members Thursday, May 17, 2012. Launch slideshow »
J. Patrick Coolican

J. Patrick Coolican

During Shaun Clark’s time in the U.S. Army, he was deployed as airborne infantry to Afghanistan, Iraq and to Haiti after the earthquake. He’s experienced more in three years than most of us will in a lifetime. At 21, he’s back home and asking: Now what?

That’s the question facing many young veterans, who served in some treacherous war zones and now find themselves living in a civilian world that must seem at once dull, a little confusing and not very welcoming.

The unemployment rate for veterans who have served on active duty at any time since September 2001 — referred to as Gulf War-era II veterans — was 12.1 percent in 2011, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That was significantly higher than the rest of the population.

For male veterans ages 18 to 24, the situation is worse, with an unemployment rate of 29.1 percent in 2011, compared with 17.6 percent of young male nonveterans.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is trying to fix this deplorable problem with a program called Hiring Our Heroes, and they held a job fair at the Venetian on Thursday. (First lady Michelle Obama has a similar initiative.)

Many young veterans joined the service right out of high school and need to catch up on the basics, such as how to write a resume.

Once they know the basics, young veterans confront a problem: how to translate duty, honor and country into bullet points on a resume.

Nathan Smith, who was a Marine Corps infantry officer, is executive director of Hire Heroes, an Atlanta-based nonprofit that offers employment training for veterans and connects them with employers. As he put it, “How do you put ‘Infantry in Afghanistan’ on a resume?”

He said that when he talks to employers, his message is, “Hire for attitude and train for skill.”

This is especially crucial for young men whose primary experience has been combat arms in the Army and Marine Corps. (Navy and Air Force veterans often leave the service with technical skills in demand in the private sector.)

“We ask employers to take that leap and train them, and then they get a really great employee who will add to the bottom line,” Smith said.

A group of young men sat around a table getting some nuts-and-bolts advice on life after the military. Take advantage of tuition assistance. Talk to your friends who have left the service.

“I had no idea what my options were,” Smith told them. “All I knew was the Marines.”

“No one is going to do it for you, but the best alumni network in the world is the U.S. military, and particularly the Marines,” Smith said.

Frank Reyes, who has served two tours in Afghanistan during his four years in the Army, is in Las Vegas with other injured veterans this week on an all-expense paid trip to the Palazzo, an annual tradition there.

He’ll be finished in September 2013 and is already making preparations. He wants to go into law enforcement, so he’s lining up schooling back in Texas to study criminal justice. And he’s heading to a dermatologist to start the no-doubt painful process of removing tattoos from his hands — a police officer can’t have those. He said the job fair workshop helped him see how he could translate his experiences — using expensive machinery, meeting deadlines and working with team members — into a solid resume.

As an Army combat infantryman, he suffered a concussion and traumatic brain injury but says he’s on his way to full recovery.

The same can’t be said of the American economy anytime soon, so let’s support these programs for veterans however we can.

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  1. Mr. Coolican: Finally you write an article that has meat. Thank you. May all the returning vets find and be rewarded with jobs that fulfill them.

  2. Here's a thought.....Fire 20% of SEIU union members in the county that are lazy, unproductive, worthless POS, then give one of those vacant jobs to this veteran.

  3. The sad truth is, though most say "They Support The Troops" it's just lip-service! When it comes down to actually funding the V.A., or any veterans program for that matter, the citizenry doesn't way to pay the tab, sadly!

    I came home about 40 years ago, and the only job I could find was in the back room of a fast-food restaurant doing stock, prep and clean-up work! After three years in the Army at age 21 and having scored near the top of every class, and surviving a war - I was making minimum wage in a humiliating job! Later, I found out the only reason I was hired was because the company got a kick-back for hiring a veteran - they didn't give a damn about me personally!

    It was so bad back in our day many of us stopped putting our military service on our resume - and to be candid, that might be good advice today too! I never mentioned my military service for a decade to avoid being stereotyped as a "crazy vet" or "baby killer" - and here we are, again, 40 years later!

    It's just sad, Sad, SAD! God Bless America! But, no one in my family will ever be suckered into fighting another foreign war for the corporations or wealthy elite!

  4. At the moment, the situation in Las Vegas seems very bleak. Returning vets, or anyone else, meets a job market that practically doesn't exist, and the jobs that become vacant are hardly career jobs in most instances. They are mainly service sector jobs or jobs that require a high degree of skill, quite likely beyond the reach of many vets. Much of this is due to a local economy that is wedded to the casino industry, and businesses that are needed to support it, retailing, medical and other service sector work. Without some major change, this town is little more than a wide spot in the desert, hardly the land of opportunity, especially for younger ambitious workers, looking for a job with a future.

  5. Bob635 - "Welcome to the illusion of the US. The US is the largest weapons manufacturer in the world. SO it NEEDS wars to sell its weapons."

    Well put, we will always have a perpetual boogey man. It was communism now it's Islam. Who knows what our next invisible enemy will be? We already have idiots saber rattling over Iran and Romney commenting on the Soviet Union and an out dated Cold War.

    What Johnathan Abbinett posted at 8:33am wasn't uncommon then and isn't uncommon today. He was treated unfairly like many veterans returning from wars. Asians, blacks and hispanics fought in every war to better their lives and were treated as second class citizens upon returning. It has nothing to do with retraining or education. It has everything to do with people who don't serve taking people who did for granted, from Congress down.

    I'll bet that if those elites at the top had their children on the front line getting shot at, this warmongering crap would end.

  6. In Israel all eighteen year old able bodied citizens, serve in the military, male (3 years) and female (24months), with a few exceptions. Upon leaving the military companies hire them because of the knowledge and leadership they gained due to their experiences.

    Why doesn't the United States have a similar program? Many U.S. citizens take it for granted that our military protects us while they sit at home living a cushy life style by comparison. Our troops and their families sacrifice their lives and limbs for our sakes but get little in return. Many veterans return home to foreclosures, joblessness and a society that basically shuns them.

    These are the other one percent. Those that are ignored while waging war for the last ten years. The government learned a few tricks since Vietnam. They learned not to implement a draft system and keep public attention away from real war events. If they had not done those things with Afghanistan I can guarantee public outcry against the wars would be resounding. Rebuilding a 3rd century nation is next to impossible, and those funds would be better used at home, not to bolster an extremely corrupt government.

  7. Returning war veterans can contribute a lot of experience to our society from what they learned while being deployed. These veterans can be very usefull as policeman, fireman,paramedics,security for major hotels,and teachers of every kind of subject that is being taught.The opportunities are endless for them,they just need a little help from all of us in their adjustment back home.

  8. bchap, from reading your posts this past year, and all that you have experienced in your years with the military. I believe you have turned out to be a fine and concerned American,who cares for his fellow man and country.