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By Paul Rieckhoff, Executive Director and Founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.
Note: This post is part of a weeklong celebration of U.S. military veterans. You can find more stories and resources at the Microsoft Citizenship website.
Veterans don’t need lip service. They need jobs. And so far, we haven’t seen any meaningful action coming from Washington. But a powerful ally is stepping up to fill the void: The Private Sector.
None of us need reminding that we’re in one of the worst economies in decades. More than 15 million Americans are jobless, and veterans are being hit even harder. Young veterans are facing 20% unemployment, a rate that has increased significantly from just 6.1% in 2007.
Veterans like Adam Bryant are being left out in the cold.
Adam deployed for a year to Afghanistan in 2008. While there, he managed million-dollar infrastructure projects, held a security clearance, and led his unit as a gunner on dangerous combat patrols. He also proved himself as an accomplished photographer and photojournalist.
Yet, when he got home, no one would hire him. Adam sent out dozens of resumes only to receive radio silence. The only interview he got was at The Cheesecake Factory where, after describing his military qualifications, he was discounted for lack of experience waiting tables.
Adam is just one of thousands of new veterans struggling to make the leap from military service to the civilian workforce. And still, Congress has failed to deliver.
Photo courtesy of the IAVA.
While Washington stands idle, the private sector has been revving up. Across the board, enlightened companies like Microsoft are stepping up to hire veterans and connect them with the tools needed to succeed in the workforce.
These companies get it. And more seem to be catching on. Unfortunately Washington isn’t.
What have they been focused on instead? Things like postage stamps and college tennis teams – as highlighted last month by Jon Stewart. Taking a cue from the private sector, Washington must step up and deliver jobs and employment resources to the veterans’ community. If private companies get it, the White House and Congress must learn, too.
Learn more about Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) and get involved at www.iava.org.
Paul Rieckhoff, Executive Director and Founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA).
Paul Rieckhoff, is the Executive Director and Founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA). A non-partisan non-profit group with over 100,000 members around the world, IAVA was founded in 2004 and is America’s first and largest Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans organization. Rieckhoff was a First Lieutenant and infantry rifle platoon leader in the Iraq war from 2003-2004. He is now a nationally recognized authority on the war in Iraq and issues affecting troops, military families and veterans.
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