- - Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Greg Pedrick of Catonsville, Md., figured his two tours in Iraq would qualify him for jobs in government law enforcement. He has a degree in political science and earned a Purple Heart as a Marine vehicle commander and team leader guarding convoys from insurgents south of Baghdad.

So he applied to Customs and Border Protection, to the Veterans Health Administration, to the Secret Service.

All said no, or said nothing.

Since May, Mr. Pedrick, 28, said he’s applied for at least 20 positions with the federal government, where veterans get hiring priority. He’s heard back about four. He’s had no better luck with state and county jobs and has been looking for leads since earning his degree in January 2010.

“You apply for these jobs, and you have no idea,” said Mr. Pedrick, who works hospital security but considers it a job, not a career. “Most of the time it takes six to eight weeks — or you don’t even hear back.”

Mr. Pedrick’s experience is not unique. And some veterans have it even worse.

Nationwide, unemployment among veterans is 8.3 percent according to the most complete statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In Maryland, this rate is lower, around 5.7 percent, but the disorientation veterans feel transitioning from war to the work force is the same.

Patrick Young, coordinator of veterans services at Towson University, left the Marines in 2005 and said he spent that summer doing nothing. By September, he’d decided to enroll in college, but he hadn’t planned ahead and missed the deadline.

So three months to decompress from military life turned into half the year.

“You’re lost for a minute. You feel behind,” he said.

The military does offer courses on transitioning to civilian life, but Mr. Young, 28, said they seemed almost like an afterthought and would be more useful early in deployment when there’s time to prepare school and job applications.

After coming home, Young said he got into trouble with alcohol and felt isolated when he realized the friends he’d gone out with after returning home had other responsibilities — and work.

When Mr. Young started work on a triple major at Towson University in philosophy, political science and religious studies and began meeting veterans going through the same struggles, he said that isolation began to fade. Now he spends his time helping others transition and trying to help them stay in school, where veteran dropout rates are high, he said.

The only unique thing about his experience, Mr. Young said, is that he decided to go to school and pursue something positive.

But living in Maryland can have advantages.

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