People around the world breathed a sigh of relief today as President Obama announced that he would keep his campaign commitment to wind down the war in Iraq. And families across our country are overjoyed that they will have their loved ones home for the holidays.
Unfortunately for many of our brave veterans, they won't be getting the sort of homecoming they've earned. More than 11% of veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are unemployed. That number is tragic and shameful for us as a nation. And I'm afraid that number will only grow, with tens of thousands returning home to a terrible economy.
That is, unless we do something about it.
We should employ 100% of our veterans -- let me repeat that, 100% of our veterans. Every single person who has served overseas in the last decade deserves a chance at meaningful employment for the next decade. What better homecoming for our brave men and women than to make sure each and every one of them can provide for their family?
This should be a moment for all government, business, and labor leaders to stand shoulder to shoulder and make this commitment to our veterans. There are provisions in the stalled American Jobs Act that would directly add jobs for veterans and should be passed immediately -- by acclamation. President Obama has just announced a public/private Joining Forces partnership with Dr. Jill Biden and Gen. Stan McChrystal that would give 25,000 veterans jobs.
Howard Schultz, the Starbucks CEO, has taken great initiative for increasing employment and could be a great leader in the business community for veterans. And the Clinton Global Initiative has done some amazing work on improving jobs prospects for returning veterans. I know our labor unions and social justice organizations are ready to step up to the plate and do their part, too. All of these avenues should be pursued and more, until every last vet has a stable, good paying job.
With this war winding down, we have a chance as a nation to banish the word "homeless veteran" from our vocabulary.
I have a three-year-old and a seven-year-old. They've never known an America without troops fighting in Iraq. My hope is that they'll soon know a country that no longer has soldiers fighting in Afghanistan. And I'm going to advocate for an America where we don't have to explain to our children why a veteran is begging for change at an intersection.
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