By Jane Alexander, Deputy Editor
November has always been a time of celebration for me. Several close relatives and some of my best friends in the world have November birthdays. But no one in my immediate circle is, like me, an “Armistice Baby”—born on November 11, now officially recognized as Veterans Day.
As a small child, I loved the fact that American flags lined the streets, schools let out, banks closed and people wore little red poppies on their lapels for MY birthday. The solemnity of the day escaped me. It was only as I grew older that I came to realize the true, national significance of the date.
This year, as we celebrate Veterans Day, we’re faced with one of those good news/bad news scenarios. The good news is we’ve just learned that 40,000 of our troops may be coming home from deployments in Iraq. The bad news, as I understand it, is that with our current staggering unemployment statistics, we don’t know what type of private-sector jobs will be available to those veterans so they can support themselves and their families.
Most military veterans reading this column can probably relate: As troops have come home from earlier conflicts, they’ve typically brought with them a range of skills that could translate easily into civilian positions. Things have changed, though. With fewer jobs to be had these days—and so many of the ones that are posted requiring higher-tech training and skills than in the past—people are beginning to whisper about the possibility of even uglier unemployment rates than we’re looking at now.
Lest we forget, our politicians are on the job—or at least they say they are. As I write this piece (on Halloween), something called the Veterans Opportunity to Work Act is still trying to wend its way through Congress and onto the President’s desk. In addition, I heard this morning that the President, as part of his “We Can’t Wait” strategy, is trying to work out something that would match around 8000 veterans with healthcare jobs. All well and good, but the point is things don’t seem to be moving quickly enough for countless vets who have already come home—from Iraq, Afghanistan, even Vietnam—not to mention the thousands that are expected to return by Christmas. For now, it’s probably going to be up to the private sector to get the job done. This month’s “Viewpoint” column (page 56) comes from Mike Putz, the president/CFO of a company trying to do just that: Energy Veterans, Inc.©
Based in Mount Prospect, IL, Energy Veterans is fighting to put veterans back to work in energy-sector jobs. It’s an example of good people coming together with a good idea and making it work for those who have served our country well—and who deserve much more from us as a nation than we seem to be providing, in many cases.
As Mike notes, Energy Veterans is just a small player in a big job market. To that, I say, what the hey: It’s going to take a lot of players—big and small—to overcome the challenges our nation is facing on the jobs front. If you know of other companies and organizations that are working to help fight this war, please let me know. We want to put a spotlight on them as well.
In the meantime, I trust you’ll join with me in celebrating all of our veterans—and everything that Veterans Day is really about—every day of the year!