Anny was still a teenager when she joined the U.S. Marine Corps in 2002. Eager to serve her country and see the world, Anny enlisted before her senior year of high school. She served for five years and was deployed to Okinawa, Japan. During that time, she earned a Navy and Marine Corps achievement medal as an aviation equipment specialist. When Anny left the service in 2008, she returned to school, graduating magna cum laude from the University of Maryland and earning her MBA in management and accounting at Fordham University -- all while piecing together part-time jobs and internships to gain experience and support her two young children. Yet, like many military veterans, despite her education and notable success, Anny had no civilian work experience and didn't know how to apply for jobs outside of the military.
This part of Anny's story is all too familiar. More than 2.8 million Americans have served in the military since 2001, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and 20 percent of them were women, a sharp increase from decades past. Of these 2.8 million men and women, nearly one in 10 is unemployed. Even for the most accomplished veterans, the transition to civilian life can be difficult, as men and women navigate difficulties ranging from high child care costs to post-service disabilities to a lack of appropriate licensing or credentialing needed in the workplace. Many veterans, like Anny, have simply never sought or held a job outside of the military, and need assistance navigating how to get there.
Fordham paired Anny with a career navigator from Goodwill's Operation: GoodJobs program, who provided her with individualized career and financial planning to guide her transition from deployment to civilian life. With her navigator's support, Anny focused her job search, received several interviews, and landed a job offer that was the right fit for her: a project coordinator at Standard Chartered Bank.
Anny's success story is, thankfully, not the only one. Following the coordinated efforts of government, nonprofit and corporate leaders, we are finally seeing the unemployment rate among military veterans ease, albeit slowly.
Three years ago, First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden called on American organizations to support military veterans by participating in the Joining Forces campaign to assist veterans and military families. Responding to this call, Goodwill for America's Heroes launched in April 2011. As of September 2014, the initiative has served more than 153,000 veterans and their family members with job training, placement and other services such as housing, transportation, rehabilitation, mock interviews, and resume writing. With women among the fastest-growing demographics in the armed forces today, Goodwill made a special commitment in 2013 to engage women veterans with services and supports that lead to economic self-sufficiency. The commitment was to serve 3,000 women veterans in two years. However, in the just the last year alone, we served more than 4,700 women veterans, while helping many of them find jobs and careers.
While growing numbers of veterans are finding success in civilian life through initiatives offered by various nonprofit organizations, the unemployment rate for veterans still remains higher than the unemployment level among all Americans--a fact that, on this Veterans Day, should deeply concern all of us.
Anny's story has a happy ending--she found a great job and the means with which to support her family. Every American veteran deserves the chance to write his or her own happy ending. If you are a veteran in need of employment or an employer looking for a qualified candidate, please call 1-800-GOODWILL.