Job fair draws wounded soldiers

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THE WASHINGTON TIMES Roughly 80 organizations were at Walter Reed Army Medical Center yesterday to offer job opportunities to wounded service members.

The event, known as the Hiring Heroes Career Fair, was sponsored by the Defense Department and attracted nearly 200 men and women at the military hospital to rehabilitate from injuries they sustained in Afghanistan and Iraq.

“It lets the [service members] know that they’re still good for something, even if they can’t run around as soldiers anymore,” said Deborah Seabreeze, 24, of Sterling, Va., who was visiting employer booths with her husband, severely injured in an attack by a “suicide vehicle bomb.” He decline to give his name.

Many of the prospective employers were government agencies, including the Transportation and Defense departments, which are popular employers for discharged service members because they can keep their retirement plan.

Some former military men and women manned agency tables, not only to recruit but also to tell soldiers how they found jobs after they retired.

“They’re a little uncertain, afraid, and I just talk to them,” said Army veteran Joe Ramseur, of Frederick, Md., who volunteered to recruit at the Federal Highway Administration’s table for a few hours.

The federal government has nearly 2 million employees, not including the Postal Service.

The government hires based upon competitive examinations, but wounded soldiers receive some advantages under the Veterans Preference Act of 1944.

“I get joy out of seeing our sons and daughters being taken care of because these injuries are lifelong, and they need careers that will offer them a good retirement,” said John Dandridge, 49, a Tennessee native who went to the fair with his son, Army Cpl. Joel Dulashanti, a member of 82nd Airborne Division, who was injured in a firefight in Afghanistan.

Many of the service members said the fair was especially important to those injured because trying to recover and return to a productive civilian life can be daunting.

“All of a sudden, you get injured, then where do you go?” said Lt. Martha Martir, 25, of Alexandria, who for the past five months has been helping wounded soldiers at Walter Reed prepare medical documents for their discharge.

The fair also provided an opportunity for soldiers still at the hospital to have a job while in rehabilitation.

“The soldiers out working are far better than those in their rooms watching TV,” said Army Sgt. Shawn Cannon, who is responsible for 12 recovering soldiers at Walter Reed. “A job occupies their time and helps them recover.”

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