By Mark Blackney
Last week I saw a news report about the unemployment rate of our returning vets as they re-enter the civilian world. Many are having problems finding meaningful employment and I realized how illogical that was. They should be the first ones being snapped up by employers.
All you have to do is look at their work ethic and experience. First of all, they volunteered to risk their lives in a highly structured work environment that required critical thinking and communication skills, traits that are bemoaned by employers as missing in civilian job applicants. After all, if a soldier doesn’t use his head to solve a problem he could lose it – literally. Solving a business problem logically in the workplace would be a piece of cake.
Military personnel are trained to follow rules like showing up on time and they respect authority. Wouldn’t it be nice to hear “Yes, sir” or “Yes, ma’am” from your employees? They’re not going to complain about break time or working late. It’s kind of hard to take a break when hunting down terrorists. They won’t quit after two hours on the job because they don’t like it, it’s too hard or not their dream job. They’ll be grateful that you hired them.
Don’t get me wrong. There are many companies in the Valley reaching out to our vets and we salute them. I just want more to consider the extraordinary skills and advantages you’d gain from adding a soldier to your payroll. Frankly, we owe it to them and their families.
My wife’s and my families have a long history of military service. I am a Vietnam era Navy vet having served on the John F. Kennedy. My father was in the National Guard and my two uncles served in the Navy. Fran’s father was a flight surgeon in the Army Air Corps during World War II. One uncle was a Navy captain commanding ships in WWII and the Korean War while another manned the submarine net under the Golden Gate. Other uncles served in Africa under Rommel and flew fighter planes over Europe.
And those of you who know us well are aware of our son, Kevin’s recent four year stint as a flight surgeon in the Air Force. He served in South Korea, Wright Patterson AFB in Ohio and most importantly was the treating physician to the returning wounded and injured soldiers landing at Andrews AFB in Washington, DC.
Fortunately, they and I all returned to successful civilian lives.
But face it, this country that I love has not always fulfilled its responsibilities to our military very well. The disgraceful way our Vietnam vets were treated still reverberates today and should never be forgotten. And, sometimes our soldiers have been sent into situations that turned out to be mistakes. We mourn those lost and ravaged lives.
However, two recent reports have been the most upsetting. One is a taped conversation of officials at the VA discussing the immense backlog of medical claims by veterans. Some are many years old. The woman is heard talking about simply destroying the claims so her department’s ratings won’t be affected. To her, these men and women’s medical conditions are a nuisance that should be just shredded. I’d like to see her spend some time in one of those soldier’s uniforms. She wouldn’t last an hour.
Another hot topic right now is the administration’s eagerness to cut our military back to pre-World War II levels. I know that cuts are a necessary evil in today’s world, but there seems to be too much of a delight and urgency on their part to get their hands on that money. Over 90,000 soldiers would lose their jobs and others would have their benefits and pay cut. They’re an easy target because Washington knows they won’t go on strike or complain. They have too much honor.
Meanwhile, the president’s budget includes massive increases in entitlement spending for food stamps, etc. and adding more personnel to other federal agencies, specifically the IRS. They need more agents to go after innocent civilians who have misunderstood the overly complicated rules of the behemoth Obamacare debacle. They have to continue to feed the ravenous federal beast called the US government. But at what cost with a diminished military?
A larger issue for me is the seemingly “income inequality” of pay for public workers when compared to what is paid to our military personnel. Washington DC has the lowest unemployment of any area in the country with the highest salaries. Those federal employees work in cushy offices, many doing duplicate work. They have generous salaries and benefits and job security. One common saying is that the only way to lose a federal job is to die.
Remember, the person picking up your garbage probably makes more than the soldier fighting overseas. Both are respected jobs, but it doesn’t make sense. Of course, the soldier knows the salary and benefits when he enlists, but often, duty and honor overrides that consideration.
So, it’s up to us to make a difference. We applaud them as they arrive at the airport and weep at the videos of them surprising their kids, but the bigger question is, what do we do when the balloons are deflated and the cameras are gone? We need to step up and make their civilian lives easier.
In May, two large events will be held at the Veterans Memorial Building to assist our brave men and women.
May 17th has been declared “Military Appreciation Day” by the city of Clovis. You are invited to join them at the Veterans Memorial Building starting at 9:30 am for the opening ceremonies. The event will include a Health, Job and Resource Fair, seminars and workshops and a complimentary “Luncheon for Two”.
Outside you will find food vendors, children’s attractions and entertainment, Ducky the Clown, a City of Clovis fire engine, the Sounds of Freedom Patriotic Band, the Masons Country Duo, the Baloney Creek Band and the Travelin’ Pioneers Square Dancers. It will be a fun-filled day to honor our country’s finest.
The next week, the Vets will be hosting the Honor a Hero, Hire a Vet job fair on May 29th from 9 – 2. Many local companies will be represented who are eager to support our local military. For more information, contact Sarah Maokosy at 230-4077.