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A Job is the Best Welcome Home for Our Veterans

JINSA Report #: 

November 11, 2011

Happy Veterans Day 2011 to all the men and women who serve and have served in the Armed Forces of the United States of America.

Today, Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki made a plea for jobs in the pages of the Wall Street Journal. Hardly an unusual request in these desperate times, but it was jobs for military veterans that Secretary Shinseki, a former Army Chief of Staff, was referring to.

As America winds down its troop commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan and with budget cuts that will mandate a smaller military not far off, servicemen and women are or will soon be entering the civilian workforce in numbers not seen since the 1970s. They will join thousands more who due to their serious wounds were compelled to leave military service over the past decade. While the national unemployment rate hovers just above nine percent, for veterans it is more than twelve percent.

Secretary Shinseki noted that:

Since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, almost three million American men and women have answered our nation's call to arms to defeat what came to be known as al Qaeda and those associated with it. Now, after 10 years of war, almost 1,350,000 who deployed overseas have returned to our communities. But more than 850,000 veterans of all generations remain unemployed. Over the next five years, we project that another one million will be leaving the military.

We have a national obligation to our veterans. They, who achieved so many awe-inspiring victories, are the ultimate team players - a valuable quality in the civilian workforce. From the pilot who drops a bomb that destroys an enemy position extends a long line of thousands of military personnel who maintain the aircraft, keep the base from which it flies secure and operational, and who work everyday far from the battlefield ensuring that the front line forces have what they need to accomplish their missions. The very same goes for our ships at sea and our combat troops - drawn from all of the services - getting the job done on the ground.

Members of Congress and the White House have commendably pushed veteran-hiring initiatives. This is a first step. The second must come from American businesses both small and large.

What is important is that this generation will not and must not be treated as the veterans of the Vietnam War were treated - with indifference and even hostility. We don't see that happening, thank goodness.

American society today is, in many ways, more secure with its identity. Throughout the last decade's wars, we have embraced our young warriors because we see in them a reflection of our purest ideals - self-sacrifice, honor, courage and loyalty.

Secretary Shinseki concluded his missive with the exhortation, "Let's get out there to mobilize our communities and ensure that veterans have the opportunity to compete. We have some great young men and women counting on us to come through for them and their families."

We could not agree more.

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