COLUMBUS, Ind. (AP) - Some veterans who are returning from battlefield are discovering a different kind of battle on their return - one that has them trying to prove their qualifications for segments of the job market.
Columbus native Charlie Sizemore, 34, has felt the pain of both.
“I managed 12 soldiers every day with lethal weapons,” he said. “And then I come home to find out I can’t even get a job at a department store?”
Sizemore, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan with the U.S. Marines, is among Indiana veterans still seeking appropriate full-time work. He had found teaching and also personal trainer positions - and had to drop them due to nagging physical injuries after being shot in the foot in Iraq.
New statistics offer a hint of optimism. The federal Bureau of Labor and Statistics’ October figures show that the unemployment rate for veterans fell to 4.5 percent, from September’s rate of 4.7 percent.
There are an estimated 7,000 veterans who live in Bartholomew County alone, according to the Bartholomew County Veterans Service Office.
Sizemore’s department store rejection surfaced soon after he returned home in 2004. A personality inventory questionnaire at one employer apparently questioned whether he possessed healthy emotions. Sizemore, who had never had his psyche challenged, told The Republic (https://bit.ly/1xdNQG5 ) he questioned the test’s validity.
Others such as Columbus native and Greensburg resident Matt Morrow, 41, found work even before he completed his 21-year U.S. Army career in 2012 as a first sergeant with tours in Iraq and nearly all over the globe.
He visited a job fair and was then recruited for a few weeks by a communications firm for an IT job that he held until recently. He coordinated communications systems in the Army.
“But I think they (the company) wanted me partly because of my disability (from explosions),” he said, adding that he wondered if the firm got tax breaks for hiring disabled veterans.
He’s now seeking a new post - and shopped his résumé at a job fair last week at the Columbus Learning Center, where one hour was devoted exclusively to veterans.
“I’ll find out now how my military experience transfers,” said the soldier, who commanded 140 people at a time.
Ex-U.S. Navy veteran and Taylorsville resident Andy Griggs, 43, has included on his resume only one brief reference about his military experience in the 1990s. He never was able to use his aviation maintenance administration expertise in the civilian market. He most recently served as a long-haul trucker, and worked for a local manufacturer before that.
He exuded optimism as he walked from table to table to speak to employers.
“I do kind of have that (good) feeling about this,” Griggs said of his first job fair in several years.
Thomas Crawford, Bartholomew County’s veterans service officer, said he occasionally fields phone calls from veterans seeking work.
“I do think there’s a need (for help), no question,” Crawford said.
He speaks partly from personal experience. When he completed 24 years of U.S. Army service in 2009 at age 48, he realized he was starting over in the workforce. He struggled with a transition into business environments that he saw as somewhat lax.
Until he found his current post, he worked for quite a while at minimum wage jobs, such as a road flagger for an energy firm doing repairs. In other positions, the man who “once had others’ lives in his hands” felt supervisors were constantly looking over his shoulder as if he were irresponsible.
“We simply need to get the word out that most ex-soldiers know what to do to get the job done,” Crawford said.
Prince’s Lakes Michael Thompson, a veteran who now serves in the National Guard, serves as Work One’s local veterans’ employment representative. He said some local firms specifically look for military experience, and how that translates to leadership, teamwork and loyalty.
“We usually want the kind of loyalty where we can feel like we truly belong to something,” Thompson said.
Kimberly M. Riche, a recruiter for Columbus’ Adecco Office and Industrial, said she notices such character traits among veterans at job fairs.
“I think they generally have a lot of loyalty, coming from the general environment of the armed services,” Riche said. “Sometimes now it can be hard to find workers who are loyal and will stick it out with an employer long term.”
Information from: The Republic, https://www.therepublic.com/
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