Today is Veteran’s Day. There will be countless parades and speeches. The National Anthem will mean a little bit more to civilians across America. The words will be sung with a little more heart. I imagine that there will be a surplus of tears rolling down cheeks, as this is designated as a public holiday to honor US veterans and victims of all wars. “Thank you for your service,” is the phrase that defines how our nation expresses gratitude for the members of our military, and we will hear it a lot throughout the day.
What does this day really mean, and what are we doing to go beyond the holiday? There is a wide cultural gap between Americans who have no relationship with the Armed Forces and those who have served their country. Closing that gap is as necessary as it is wide and long overdue. The perfect place to start building that bridge is between veterans and the job market.
Don’t assume that just because a plethora of companies have veteran initiatives that the veteran employment issue has been resolved. The job crisis among our freedom fighters is alive and well. This disparity persists despite pledges by organizations of all sizes, across all industries, to hire more of them. There are still military families who are living with the repercussions of unemployment. There are spouses and children who are living under the same roof as a provider who feels like a failure. There are countless single and married veterans that are trying to figure out how to maneuver around the paralyzing uncertainty of paying their bills. Combine that with the potential of PTSD, and you have nothing but a recipe for disaster.
Many of the veterans I know are humble and often times more embarrassed than anything to admit that they are struggling. I know reservists who came home from war and were working less than a week after they got home. They were mowing lawns and working at gas stations to put food on the table. They went from night patrols in the heart of Baghdad to working at an entry-level job. I know a combat engineer who helped rebuild parts of northern Iraq who then found himself at the bottom of the manual labor totem pole when he got back. They’re coming home from the desert or the hills of Afghanistan, and they’re getting paid peanuts to adjust the water lines in sprinkler systems. And they’re doing it within days or weeks of coming off of lengthy or back-to-back deployments. We also can’t forget the ones who devoted years to active duty who don’t have a skillset that is comparable in the civilian sector when they retire. Men and woman who were entrusted with the task of protecting our nation are worth more than struggling to find a minimum wage job.
Some are luckier than others. A friend or family member helped them get into a good company. They’ve managed because someone believed in them, because someone viewed them as an investment instead of a charitable job placement.
This Veteran’s Day, let’s ask ourselves what we’re doing to show these men and women we believe in them. These soldiers are hardworking, diverse and reliable. Let’s help them find work.
“Thank you for your service” is a just phrase, and we are capable of putting action behind the words. Let this Veteran’s Day be more meaningful than ever, as you realize this truth.
Tiffany Eckert is a mother of three children, Gold Star Wife, passionate supporter of the military community and a strong advocate of paying it forward. She has locked arms with the Medix team as a blog contributor, sharing her insights into military issues and social responsibility.