Veterans Day began as Armistice Day, remembering those who served in the U.S. military during World War I, which ended on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, “a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace,” according to a congressional declaration. Nearly four decades later, Congress expanded the observance into a national holiday honoring all American military service men and women.
The nation pays tribute in various ways, from parades in small-town streets, educational programs in schools, ceremonies by veterans organizations, special discounts for vets at restaurants and shops, personal ads in local newspapers with pictures of relatives in uniform, and thank-yous posted on social media websites. Those sincere gestures are worthy and needed as Monday’s holiday approaches. Still, there’s another form of gratitude that can offer a long-term impact.
The U.S. must continue and intensify efforts to get post-9/11 veterans into the workforce.
Post-9/11 veterans remain unemployed at higher levels than vets of other eras, and the general population. The jobless rate for post-9/11 veterans stood at 10.1 percent in November, well above the overall national unemployment rate of 7.2 percent. The rate for all other veterans, by comparison, was 6.3 percent, according to the online publication The Blaze.
There are numerous contributing factors, but a couple are significant and repairable. One involves, of all things, a stigma.
Last week, Starbucks admirably joined several other U.S. employers unveiling a hiring program specifically targeted at veterans. The javashop giant announced its intention to hire at least 10,000 veterans and spouses of active-duty service members over the coming five years. Earlier this year, Walmart instituted a similar objective, aiming to employ 100,000 veterans through 2018. JPMorgan Chase, Boeing and Microsoft have also begun programs to increase hiring of veterans.
Sadly, those wonderful ventures stand in contrast to some other industries. In an NPR report last week, a staff attorney for Starbucks who helped craft the company’s veterans hiring program, recalled his own difficulties in finding work in the civilian labor force. Rob Porcarelli worked as a prosecutor in the U.S. Navy in the 1990s, but hit a roadblock early in his job hunt. “In one interview downtown, the head of the department said, ‘You know, Rob, I think you’re going to find more of the intellectual type in the law firm environment.’ And I remember thinking, ‘Maybe he’s joking. Did he just call me and all my friends stupid?’”
The Starbucks plan bucks such disgraceful stereotyping.
Post-9/11 vets also deserve to have their training for specific jobs in the military validated by smooth, rapid certification for equivalent civilian jobs once they’re back home. Many states, including Indiana, have worked to speed up the credentialing process for veterans with military-time skills in medicine, communications, welding, mechanics, truck-driving and heavy equipment operating, according to The Blaze’s story.
As the unemployment numbers show, progress needs to continue. The skills, work ethic and leadership qualities of the returning service members should be a guiding force for employers as they hire. As operations conclude in Afghanistan, more than 1 million U.S. military vets will become civilians, looking for work, in the next few years. A job opportunity — the chance to put their hard-earned qualities to use — offers one important way to say, “Thank you.”