Three years ago, I got an email from an Iraq veteran from Arlington, Virginia named Joe Tryon. His wife, Melissa, also a disabled combat veteran, was undergoing treatment at Walter Reed. Joe and Melissa are one of the more than 115,000 dual-military couples today. Together, they faced countless bureaucratic hurdles and endless red tape as they fought to get Melissa the care she had earned.
Today, Joe is facing a new fight: finding a job. For the last 14 months, this West Point graduate and Army Ranger has been unemployed. With his wife 100% disabled and unable to work, they are scraping by solely on savings and disability income.
In addition to graduating from one of the top schools anywhere, Joe also holds an MBA in health care administration. He was an officer in the Army for 6 years until he was injured and medically separated from the military. In Iraq, he was platoon leader and later an executive officer in an Anti-Tank company with the 101st Airborne Division. And now he’s hoping to get a job doing veterans advocacy work.
Despite his superior qualifications and a good attitude, Joe is still jobless; and he’s just one of the hundreds of thousands of unemployed Iraq and Afghanistan veterans relying on savings and unemployment checks nationwide. Last month, unemployment among Iraq and Afghanistan-era vets was an astounding 14.7%.
Joe said, “In the military, I was on a good career path, and was developing invaluable leadership skills that I thought would translate to a productive and rewarding professional career. Although I strongly believe any combat leadership outweighs any boardroom experience, again and again I have found this not to be true. I know that me and my veteran peers have far more to offer than what can be expressed on two-dimensional paper and I hope civilian employers can soon recognize that too.”
This week as Joe continued his job search, he spoke for veterans nationwide by standing on the Senate lawn to discuss the broader issue of veteran unemployment with some members of Congress who have been paying attention. Senators Murray, Begich and Klobuchar introduced bi-partisan legislation (a rare feat these days) to address the veteran unemployment crisis. For Joe and his fellow veterans, who are coming home from combat to one of the worst economies since the Great Depression, this news could finally mean some relief.
Some folks in the corporate sector are stepping up too. We’ve partnered with Microsoft on a historic jobs initiative that could impact thousands of new veterans and their families. And in the coming months, we hope to see even more support from corporate America on this issue.
Finding jobs for vets may not be as headline-stealing as financial reform or nominees to the high court. But it’s an issue that impacts every sector of our country—from the economy to national security. And we can all do our part. If you’re a business owner, consider hiring a veteran. And as the cover of Fortune Magazine recently highlighted, they make great employees. Believe me, I know from personal experience.
Every American, employer or not, can educate themselves on to the value of serving in the military and what type of skills veterans bring to the table. And, you can tell your representative in Congress that you want them to take action on this issue and help pass a jobs relief bill for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans now.
So, if you’re looking to hire some folks who are exceptionally disciplined, tough, dynamic, smart and ready, give me a call. I’ve got about a few thousand leaders like Joe Tryon who are ready to go.