During my niece’s high school graduation three years ago, the school honored those family and friends who had served in the armed forces. My father was in the Air Force, so we smiled proudly as he stood while the song played on, “Off we go, into the wild blue yonder…”
Then, at the end of the graduation, Dad said, “Well, now we’ve got another graduation in two years.” (That was my nephew.)
“And another one in 18,” I said. (That’s my eldest daughter, Beatrice.)
He laughed and shook his head. “I don’t know about that one, son. Don’t know if I’ll make it that far.”
I squeezed his shoulder. “You never know, Pop. You beat the devil three times already, and God hasn’t called you home yet.”
Not yet, but now my father has melanoma, a very serious kind of cancer, and it’s metastasized into his lymphatic system. How far beyond that we don’t know yet. He’s mad as hell and will fight like he always fights; adapts like he always adapts.
However, this article isn’t about his latest illness, it’s about veterans and employment.
My dad was a mechanic in the Air Force. After serving, he returned to his home town of Porterville, CA where he became mechanic foreman for the local Chevrolet dealer. This was back in the 1960s when, for a distinct few, you could practically listen to a car and diagnose its problem. After that he went in a completely different direction and became a police officer where he spent the rest of his career, complete with a short stint as a deputy sheriff in the South Pacific and then eventually becoming a “special agent” in charge of the forgery and fraud division at the Visalia Police Department (my hometown) where he happily retired.
My dad never saw battle while serving in the Air Force (except on the streets once he was a cop), but he did receive an invaluable education. He learned trade skills and got real-world working experience that transferred into civilian life, long before we were spitting on our returning troops from Vietnam or sending them to the Middle East to fight an even deadlier and more expensive war.
That was a long time ago, a long way away from today where unemployment is nearly 12% for veteran’s, compared to overall unemployment rate of 9%. The irony is that it should be lower since those with education and training fare better in the anemic job market than those who don’t.
You’re hired! No wait, not really.
According to a recent article in the Washington Post:
Even as the nation suffers through its longest period of high unemployment in a generation, many employers complain about the difficulty they have finding suitable workers. Some candidates lack the aptitude for certain technical tasks, employers say. Others, they say, are missing the “soft skills” — punctuality, teamwork, the ability to operate independently and take charge of a task.
The paradox for veterans is that those are qualities and skills they possess in abundance. Many employers say they value veterans’ leadership training, discipline and national service. The problem is that employers often have only the vaguest notion of what people learn in the military.
Quite a paradox. Or as my dad always says, “It’s a ‘pair of ducks.'”
The Veterans Job Bank was released by the White House this week which provides Veterans with a central source for identifying Veteran-committed employment opportunities, and assists America’s employers in identifying qualified Veterans. Hopefully this will improve access to employment opportunities for transitioning Service Members and Veterans, giving them access to hundreds of thousands of private-sector job openings.
Happy Veterans Day, Pop.