As we take time this Veterans Day to recognize the service of our brave men and women, I must express my worries about the widening gap between the American people and their armed forces.
After the attack on the Twin Towers, President George W. Bush declared: “America must not ignore the threat gathering against us. Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof, the smoking gun that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud.”
Ending The Draft
After nearly a decade and a half of wars fought on behalf of the Commander In Chief’s clear call to national danger, no American has been obligated to join in the fight and very few have volunteered to do so.
A 1973 Vietnam-era decision to depart from the tradition of the citizen-soldier by ending the draft and establish a large, professional, all-volunteer force has rendered our troops for many who have not served, into patriotic props at sporting events, television commercials and parades instead of employable citizens for the country when their service ends.
According to Department of Defense, less than 0.5 percent of the population serves in the armed forces; compared to more than 12 percent during World War II. Even fewer of the privileged and powerful shoulder arms. In 1975, 70 percent of members of Congress had some military service; today, just 20 percent do. And only a handful of their children are in uniform.
Employment For The 9/11 Veteran
I believe that veteran employment is a direct result of this growing divide between the military and the citizens that it serves.
Despite downward trends in unemployment across the country, veterans who served during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have difficulty finding work, according to government jobs data.
Of the almost 2.8 million Americans who have served in uniform since 9/11, an estimated 200,000 are unemployed, according to government numbers sited in a USA Today article.
The Veteran Hiring Quiz
Don’t believe it? Take this test around your place of work:
- How many 9/11 era veterans are employed in your business?
- All things equal, who would you rather hire for a critical positon? A candidate who has spent the last four years gaining the exact experience needed for your job opening OR a candidate who spent the same four years serving in Afghanistan?
- Again how many 9/11 era veterans are employed in your business?
And that is the “Catch 22” veterans find themselves in. As Tim Isacco, chief operating officer for Orion International, a large veteran recruitment firm, told the New York Times: “Unfortunately, the ones doing most of the fighting have the highest unemployment rates.”
Help For Hiring A Veteran?
By no means am I suggesting that employers are deliberately NOT hiring veterans. Also I am not saying that an unqualified veteran should be hired as a token of gratitude.
However, because of the special circumstances presented by veterans, we need to be creative in finding ways for businesses to hire them. The National Veterans Small Business Conference and the US Department of Veterans Affairs have teamed up on three programs that can assist your business with employing a veteran.
- On the Job Training Program for Skilled Labor
An employer hires a qualified veteran at an apprentice wage and the VA will supplement the salary up to the journeyman wage.
- Special Employer Incentive Program
An employer who places a veteran in an on-the-job training program can be reimbursed by the VA for up to 50 percent of the veteran’s salary for six months.
- Non-Paid Work Experience Program for Government Agencies
Veterans can work as an apprentice in a local, state, or Federal government office. The placement does not count against the agency’s headcount and, in lieu of payment from the agency, veterans receive a monthly subsistence allowance from the VA.
For more information on these and other incentive programs go to VA.Gov for more information.
The political will along military technology advancements makes a return to the draft a very remote possibility.
However, the challenge is still there for us to reconnect in a more significant way with our military. On this day of remembrance for our Veterans, there can be no more noteworthy way to honor the service of our brave men and women than by bridging the gap with a good job.
Marben Bland is a US Army Veteran serving in Operation Desert Storm
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