"I thought that because I'm a veteran... employers would be receptive to hiring me," says Latonya Thomas. "But I got out of the military at a time when the economy was melting down and people were losing their jobs. Not only did I have to compete with other veterans, but I also had to compete with civilians who had years of experience, and possibly had better or more skills than I had."
Latonya is one of the first veterans to share her story through Homefront Chats on YouTube, a new feature from Goodwill's Operation: good jobs program, which empowers military veterans to find employment, advance in their careers and ensure long-term financial stability for their families. Watch her full story here:
Unfortunately, Latonya's story is not unique; she is just one of millions with similar stories. Veterans Day is a good time for each of us to think about how we can help heroes like Latonya make that difficult transition from service overseas to life at home.
There are more than 20 million veterans living in the United States. As we withdraw from Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) over the next five years, more than one million military service members will re-enter civilian life. These veterans will face a variety of challenges, including physical disabilities such as traumatic brain injury, psychological disabilities such as post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as substance abuse, homelessness and long waits for benefits, among others. All of these challenges mean unemployment among veterans will remain stubbornly high.
In addition, military spouses and families face challenges of their own. Because they tend to move more frequently than non-military families, they may find it difficult to pursue long-term employment and career-advancing opportunities. Helping them find and secure employment is another way that we can help ensure the success of military members.
At Goodwill®, we've been caring for our military service members and their families through a variety of programs that work toward a continuum of coordinated services, including Goodwill® for America's Heroes and Their Families, a program that has employed more than 1,614 veterans and military family members and served 55,388 through a number of supports including financial education, health screenings, housing, mental health and substance abuse counseling, transportation assistance, virtual career assistance and more since July 2011. Goodwill is also an activation partner of Got Your 6, a nationally focused collective campaign led by the entertainment industry and national nonprofits, with the goal of placing 500,000 veterans in sustainable employment. In addition, with funding from the Walmart Foundation, Goodwill implemented Operation: GoodJobs, which ensures employers and veterans are better connected through a breadth of best practices. Our efforts have led to a higher number of veterans hired, and employers have reported increased retention rates.
Across the country, Goodwill hires more than 100 veterans each month. These individuals allow us to rapidly grow our business, and they provide valuable insights that help us to bridge their military training into civilian work skills. It is critical that veterans are able to translate their technical skills from military terminology to an employer-related context. This translation can ensure that employers recognize the value veterans bring to the workplace and the talent they possess. It is vital that we focus on helping veterans find jobs and work with employers to identify qualified candidates so they can continue to fully contribute at home as they did during their military service. If you're an employer, I encourage you to hire a veteran for your next job opening. You will quickly recognize the value veterans can deliver to your business.
Whether civilian or military, all Americans have a responsibility to empower and enable each other to live fulfilling, productive and successful lives in healthy communities. Please use the Homefront Chats video series to better understand the military community, help military children thrive, educate our educators and reintegrate veterans into civilian life.
If you're a veteran who needs help translating your military skills to the civilian workforce, be sure to connect with resources and organizations based in your community. These may include Goodwill, the United Way and Veterans Affairs field service representatives. To contact your local Goodwill, call (800) GOODWILL or visit locator.goodwill.org. For more information about Goodwill's veterans programs, please visit www.goodwill.org/goodwill-for-you/specialized-services/veterans