Part 1: “Battlefield To Workforce”
No veteran should have to fight for a job after they fought for our country overseas. In our special report, from battlefield to workforce we discuss the unemployment issue among U.S. soldiers and their transition into civilian life.
“I was using a tactical data system to launch long-range missiles. I was also in charge of 7 soldiers,” explains, Benjamin Sandoval, U.S. army veteran
Benjamin Sandoval proved himself in a world where stress, danger, and life-and-death decisions were routine. He served our country from 2001 to 2006. An experience that’s still fresh on his mind.
“Day to day operations were just being engaged in combat,” says Sandoval.
Sandoval was deployed as part of operation enduring freedom and was there for the initial invasion Iraq. Benjamin was one of the lucky ones to come home. The army veteran is having a hard time adjusting to civilian life. After battle, he suffered a series of health complications.
“As time progressed I started to feel more symptoms from the war. They weren’t initial, they just gradually came slowly but surely they did come on stronger and stronger, and then I started going to the VA Clinic in Harlingen and started seeking treatment,” explains Sandoval.
Clarivel Garza, is also a U.S. army veteran trying to adjust to civilian life post 9/11.
“It is difficult, it’s a hard transition because, for example, I was in the military for 11 years and I went right out of high school, so for 11 years that’s all I knew, so to get out and the change of pace, the scenery, the people you interact with are different,” adds Clarivel Garza, U.S. army veteran.
Coming home to cutbacks and job loss can be stressful.
“You don’t think that the skills you’ve acquired in the military can transition on to this world, we call it the civilian world, because its so different, its such a shock when you come out here, its a big transition,” explains Garza.
Tens of thousands of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans share the same predicament. A labor department report estimates there are 750 thousand unemployed veterans including 246 thousand from the post 9/11 era who are trying to find their way in a tight labor market, competing with millions of unemployed people, some with long resumes and proven records in the civilian workplace.
Elda Arriaga, UTPA veterans service center director, explains the process.
“I think we’ve come a long way, but I think we can do more for our service men and women, there’s more than we can do as an institution, as a community to serve them better and to help them in their education process.”
Some vets face even more hurdles. Job-hunting skills that are rusty after spending months, or years, in uniform. No college degrees and little exposure to a business culture that has its own language and rules.
“There are organizations and companies out there that are willing to hire a veteran and willing to accept their skills that they learned during the military and integrate them into their own workplace and I think that’s great,” adds Garza.