Story and photo by Dustin Senger
Wounded warriors met with several civilian employers July 20, as part of ongoing national endeavors to employ out-of-work veterans.
Career Opportunity Day, hosted by USO and Hire Heroes USA, combined more than 70 injured and ill servicemembers with dozens of representatives from about 15 companies. The nonprofit organizations started the monthly event in May, alternating venues at Fort Carson and Fort Belvoir, Va.
Since many veterans return to their original hometowns, coordinators looked for employers with opportunities across the United States, said Andrea Sok, USO spokesperson, including Walmart, USAA, ADT, Bechtel, SRA International, Northrop Grumman, T. Rowe Price and Prudential.
About one-out-of-three servicemembers receive an employment offer at the career fairs, said Nathan Smith, Hire Heroes USA executive director.
Post-9/11 war fighters experienced a 13.3-percent unemployment rate in June, according to statistics released by the U.S. Department of Labor, while adults without military service revealed 9 percent. Veterans of all eras had a more encouraging rate of 8.8 percent.
“I have a wife and two kids to support … I have a mortgage and two car payments,” said Staff Sgt. Joseph Murrill, 704th Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division. The combat medic started a disability evaluation in April 2010, after suffering a torn meniscus.
“I was pretty upset about getting out after 13 years,” said Murrill, a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan.
“I think this process is better than just kicking the Soldiers out there and hoping maybe they get squared away,” said Murrill, who had benched his camouflage uniform, slipped on brown slacks, buttoned a collared off-white shirt and tightened a red patterned tie. He’s preparing to enter the civilian workforce in September.
“I’d hire him,” said Brian Coleman, Prudential managing director, immediately after talking with Murrill about selling insurance, investment and financial products. Cole-man said the Soldier demonstrated employable traits, including commitment and courage with a coachable attitude that’s honest and genuine.
“I like what I’ve seen here today,” said Coleman, who believes military service can outweigh the benefits of a college education.
“We don’t know what you can do — you have to come and tell us,” said Duane Hardesty, Northrop Grumman program ambassador for Operation IMPACT, an acronym for “injured military pursuing assisted career transition.”
Hardesty provided a 30-minute group discussion that covered writing a two-page resume, initiating conversations with potential employers and matching military skills with civilian professions.
“They’re preparing us for life out of the military,” said Pfc. Chris Luna, 704th BSB, 4th BCT, 4th Inf. Div., prior to an interview for a customer service manager opening at a nearby WalMart.
“You have to have a lot of faith,” said Luna, who expects to end his Army enlistment next month. “The facts prove that it’s hard to find a job in the current economy. But being a veteran is giving us a little more accessibility to the people with jobs.”
“Last year, there were 1 million unemployed veterans,” said Lt. Col. Tom Donegan, U.S. Chamber of Commerce military fellow, while speaking at a podium during a pause for lunch. “We’ve got this special population looking for opportunities in the civilian sector.”
He said 155,000 servicemembers will transition to the civilian workforce during the next year.