THE BLOG
01/03/2014 05:08 pm ET | Updated Mar 05, 2014

A New Tune for Our Heroes

I'm going to show my age here a bit, but do you remember that folk song from the 1960s, "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?" There is one lyric that asks, "Where have all the soldiers gone?" Certainly, many of our war heroes have died while protecting our interests abroad. Many more have returned home, however, and they've gone about the task of transitioning into civilian life. It hasn't been easy.

The U.S. government reports that more than 2.25 million veterans from the post-9/11 era are now in the civilian labor force. The jobless rate for veterans is 10 percent, well above the 6.7 percent rate for the total population.

Let's not forget those veterans who aren't working and aren't actively looking for work, often because of physical injuries or emotional trauma. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says there are some 10,439 veterans who fit into this category. All of these statistics paint a clear picture: Those who served our country in its time of need are now the ones in need. Our war heroes are having a harder time finding work than those workers who didn't serve. And with an estimated one million more veterans expected to return home in the next five years, the struggle to find work may well continue for this key population.

I want to tell you about one person who has managed to find work after her time in the military. Her name is Angela. Discharged in 2006, Angela is a veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. She is also a single mother of two children. Angela struggled to find work despite exhaustive efforts. While she had the proper skills and experience, she lacked a degree. She started taking classes and turned to Goodwill for assistance. Through a new program designed to help veterans find work and reach their career goals, Angela received important training. She also found a job as an administrative assistant and is working toward a bachelor's degree in business administration.

Angela is one of a growing group of veterans who are benefiting from Operation: GoodJobs, a partnership between the Walmart Foundation and Goodwill Industries International. The program was launched in the spring of 2012 in Austin and Houston, TX, and Tacoma, WA. It has successfully served more than 800 veterans and their families by connecting them with the tools and resources they need to achieve their educational, career and financial goals. The program has now expanded and is expected to serve more than 4,000 veterans and military families over the course of the next three years in the states of California, New York, North Carolina, and Texas -- four states with high concentrations of veterans.

In particular, Operation: GoodJobs connects veterans and military families with valuable training, financial education, credentialing opportunities, retention support and case management resources they need to get to work and advance their careers.

The numbers show that the transition from military service to the civilian workforce has been difficult for many veterans. The individual stories like Angela's tell us that some veterans have found that the skills they developed to protect our country aren't transferring easily to their civilian lives. Others find they lack the education or job experience needed for their chosen fields. That is why Operation: GoodJobs is so important. We apply Goodwill's vast experience in helping people find work to help address the employment difficulties facing today's military veterans.

One thing we're finding is that veterans truly do have skills that are quite marketable in today's workforce. In some cases, they simply lack access to the proper training, and in others they need better guidance to learn how to market themselves to potential employers. Those employers who hire veterans are finding them to be among the most highly skilled and capable members of their workforce.

If you or someone you know could stand to benefit from Operation: GoodJobs, contact Goodwill at www.goodwill.org or at 1-800-GOODWILL.

Maybe one day soon, they'll be singing about how all the soldiers have, "gone to good jobs, every one."

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