It's easy to say you support the troops, but numbers prove that the support often stops with the placement of a yellow ribbon on the back of a car. 1 in 5 veterans from the current wars has a service connected injury - both physical and mental. These veterans, who weren't responsible for the policy they enforced, have returned home to find that few companies are willing to hire them. Sure, times are tough all over the U.S., but read the following excerpt from an article in USA Today and tell me something else isn't going on:
Unemployment for male Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans has tripled since the recession began, rising from 5% in March 2007 to 15% last month, Labor Department statistics show.
More than 250,000 of these veterans were unemployed last month. Another 400,000 have left the workforce to attend college, raise children or because they have stopped trying to find a job, says Labor Department economist Jim Walker.
The overall national unemployment rate is 9.7%.
"It makes you almost want to go out and rip off all the 'Support Your Troops' bumper stickers," says Joe Davis, a spokesman for the 1.5 million-member Veterans of Foreign Wars. "If you want to support your troops, give them a job."
I know what is like to be an unemployed veteran and spent several years searching for a job. I applied nationally, willing to relocate for a position, for an opportunity to make money. No luck. Rejection after rejection started to make me believe that my military service was the main reason why I was perpetually unemployed. While I could've removed the Marine portion from my resume, I wasn't willing to do that: I am a Marine and worked hard to earn that title. I'd rather stand in a soup line.
Maybe, just maybe, there is a bit of veteran discrimination going on that few are willing to talk about. Maybe people are afraid of us, think we are going to overrun their perimeter or wig out on employees. Whatever the case, it has to stop.
We are an intelligent, hardworking, and dedicated bunch who may be the (gasp) Greatest Generation. Take for instance, the Operation In Their Boots (OITB) fellows: Chris Mandia earned the most prestigious scholarship the film studies graduate program at U.S.C. offers and recently had a movie he wrote, called Get Some, selected for the Short Film Corner at Cannes Film Festival (yeah, that Cannes); Victor Manzano, a proud father of two boys, is an entrepreneur who manages talent, produces music, trains E.O.D. (military bomb squad ), and fights for veterans' rights; Kyle Hartnett, a San Francisco State alumnus, is an accomplished musician who also has a movie making its rounds on the film festival circuit; and Tristan Dyer, a Brooks Institute alumnus, is a mad scientist of stop action animation (watch some of his work below) and has worked on numerous productions in the film industry. All five of us were enlisted.
The OITB fellows are not anomalies. We are standard for this generation of combat veterans, a generation that has a 15% unemployment rate.
We know vets will always have our backs and this is the reason we are working so hard on our films. We want to get cover theirs, too. We want to bring more people on board, get more Americans interested in the readjustment process, and show America that hiring a vet isn't just the right thing to do, but is also good for business. The more America starts to understand her veterans, the better this country will be. And if our documentaries help just one vet, then we will consider our filmmaking mission a success.