Today is a historic day for veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. When President Obama signs the VOW to Hire Heroes Act into law, an entire generation of new vets will be provided much-needed practical support to transition from combat to careers. As an Iraq vet I am privileged to lead the membership team at Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), the country’s first and largest nonpartisan organization committed to our newest veterans. And I speak for all of us when I thank the lawmakers who worked so hard together, putting aside party, to get this bill passed. We also thank the President for his leadership on the issue - for acting so quickly on this legislation and for bringing national attention to the veterans’ unemployment crisis.
Some 240,000 young vets were out of work in September 2011 alone, and with the Iraq War set to end in two months, a surge of troops will be returning home. And most of them will be looking for work.
There are moral and patriotic reasons to care for returning combat vets. But hiring vets is also smart business. The hundreds of combat patrols they’ve been on may not mean much to a civilian employer, but the millions of dollars of equipment, complex planning and logistic they had responsibility for should.
Take my story, for example. I served in Iraq as a proud noncommissioned officer in the Army from 2004-2005, managing hundreds of reconstruction projects in a Civil Affairs company that totaled millions of dollars. Armed with that experience and a political science degree from the University of Washington, I entered the civilian job market in 2008 with a solid resume. Yet after nine months and 375 resumes sent out, I only received one interview request – from a temp agency, looking to fill a night mall cop position.
I took that job, with drive and resolve. Vets tend not to make excuses and whine about employment prospects. We learned in the military that all jobs deserve attention and respect. But security is not what I wanted to do. And I think it’s fair to say I deserved different opportunities. I wanted opportunities that would utilize my potential as a leader, my schooling, and my experiences in the Army. My generation of vets grew up learning how to save lives, build roads and schools, negotiate with the local community, and work with a team - all while under fire. We’ll certainly be able to handle the worst the civilian world can throw at us, but we need a foot in the door first. That’s why the VOW to Hire Heroes Act is so important. The tax credits for employers should get employers’ attention and open the door. Once in, we can take it from there. We’ll deliver.
The time for America’s economic revival is now. And like our grandparents before us, it’ll be another Greatest Generation leading the way.
Jason Hansman, Acting Membership Director, Veteran. As Online Community Manager, Jason is responsible for maintaining and growing Community of Veterans, the first and largest social network exclusively for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. Prior to joining IAVA, Jason completed an 8-year enlistment in the Army Reserves as a Civil Affairs Sergeant. From 2004 to 2005, he was deployed to Mosul, Iraq as the Operations NCO of a Civil Affairs company and helped manage hundreds of reconstruction projects. Jason graduated from the University of Washington with a B.A. in Political Science, with a minor in Near Eastern Language and Civilization