Some of our newest veterans are dealing with one of America’s oldest problems. Coming home from the battle lines and heading straight for the unemployment line. The latest Department of Labor statistics show that veterans between the ages of 20 and 24 have an unemployment rate of 15%. That’s twice the rate of unemployment for non-military people in that age bracket and more than three times the national average.
Peter Blind, a Veterans employment specialist with the Veterans Outreach Center, says it’s just another consequence for a country at war. “It’s competitive, it’s an employer’s market right now,” Blind said.
Barrett Schenk joined the Marines shortly after the attacks of September 11th. The 22-year-old nearly died four months after arriving in Afghanistan in 2004 when he fell off a cliff while on mountain patrol. The fall left him with a serious hip injury and a 40% military disability. Now that he’s home in Greece and says he and other new veterans have a hard time explaining their skills and strengths to private employers. “You can’t just have the manager of so-and-so store call up your old commanding officer (for a job reference),” he said. “It just doesn’t make any sense.”
Schenk’ was a highly touted hockey goalie in high school and has found part time work at the Lakeshore Ice Arena and coaching goalies for the Greece Thunder.
Schenk is immensely proud of his military service and is quick to point out that he would do it all over again. He says he’s honored when people thank him for his service and continues to be grateful for the support for the War on Terror. But Schenk believes there needs to be more than just symbolic support. He’d like to see more private employers pledge to hire new veterans. “You put the ribbon on that’s great. Thank you,” said Schenk. “But there’s a little more to it than that, you know?”
Veteran’s advocates say a good way to start is to buy patriotic ribbons and flags from agencies that benefit veteran’s resources.
The Veterans Outreach Center on 455 South Avenue in Rochester operates a “Stars and Stripes” flag store. All of the proceeds go to help local veterans transition to civilian life. You can also buy from the store online at www.eflagstore.com