While many Americans will savor the long Labor Day weekend with a last cookout or a trip to the lake, the holiday will be far less joyful for legions of unemployed veterans.
Though many Americans remain hard-hit by the recession, veterans continue to bear the brunt of America’s unemployment woes.
Across all veterans who served in Afghanistan or Iraq, unemployment rates are at 4% above the national average. For those who came home disabled, that number is far, far higher.
But for veterans between the ages of 18 to 24, unemployment is epidemic, with rates soaring to 30% in some areas. That’s nearly one in three of our youngest vets – willing, yet unable, to find work.
To get a little perspective on that number, consider this: that’s even higher than the jobless rate in countries like Egypt, where unemployment has sparked protests and uprisings.
Imagine fighting to defend freedom, liberty and opportunity overseas, only to find that there are no opportunities for you at home … and to wind up unable to live an independent life yourself because you defended the independence of your country.
It makes a day like Labor Day seem like a cruel joke – especially for those veterans who have been forced onto friends’ couches, into shelters, even into the streets because they just can’t get a break in the job market.
All of these veterans sacrificed something profound to defend their country; many have come home permanently wounded in body and mind.
When they return to our shores, they expect their government to live up to its promises. They expect some help. They expect to at least be given the chance to work for a living!
These are surely not unreasonable demands. Yet when neither assistance nor opportunity materializes, American heroes wake up to find that they’re just another statistic – another hungry, homeless, hurting veteran.
Getting these veterans a job is one of the number one ways we can help them heal from war’s wounds and move past the grim memories they bring home.
But it’s also an absolutely essential means of combating appalling rates of alienation, hunger, homelessness and suicide among those who fought for you and me.
Even for those veterans who receive compensation for injuries sustained during their service, disability payments are often a fraction of what they previously earned.
Many risk financial ruin if they cannot find work.
Other veterans come home ready to hit the ground running. Promised that joining the military would improve their prospects, they return to civilian life filled with hope – only to find that jobs are scarce and employers are wary of hiring them.
Many employers fear what it might mean to hire a combat veteran. Some are also unable – or unwilling – to see the value in a military resume.
Many American heroes get pushed to the back of the line because they don’t come home with “typical” qualifications – because they forfeited going straight to college to serve America at war.
As disappointment and frustration mount for veterans desperate to pay their bills and care for their families, the risk of severe depression … even suicide … rises tragically.
It helps to explain why recent reports reveal that the number of deaths at home is actually outpacing fatalities on the battlefield.
For those of us lucky enough to have a job, it’s hard to imagine the anger and frustration of not being given the opportunity to work, of being forced to be idle – and dependent on others for the roof over your head or the food you eat.
Our veterans are a proud lot. And it’s nothing short of soul-crushing to make them ask for a handout or beg in the streets for some spare change.
The United States of America has to do better. And with help from people like you, we can. This Labor Day, you can speak out on behalf of veterans who just aren’t getting a chance. And if you do the hiring yourself, give a veteran a shot at a good job.
Finally, when you support NVF, you’ll help give veterans a fair shake at a job as you give them access to the employment resources they so desperately need.
I hope you’ll agree … it’s the least we can do for heroes who defended the American Way of Life!
From National Veterans Foundation: A Very Un-Labor Day for Veterans.