- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Staci L. Redmon knows firsthand the hurdles America’s veterans face making the jump from military service to private-sector employment.

A former member of the Army Signal Corps and third-generation military veteran, Ms. Redmon now runs a successful government federal contracting firm in Springfield, Virginia. But she worries that too many of her fellow former servicemen and women are not getting the help they need when they try to crack the civilian job market.

Ms. Redmon, the founder and CEO of Strategy and Management Services Inc., served in the Army for six years and was in Germany with her family when she was discharged after a service-connected injury, leaving her stranded and looking for work.

“It’s like starting all over again,” she said in a phone interview as the nation prepared to mark Veterans Day on Wednesday.

Ms. Redmon struggled to find work in Germany while her husband fulfilled his term in the Army. She was given no hiring preference as a veteran and was left on her own as a civilian foreign national looking for work in Germany, she said. She eventually obtained a civil service position working for military police until she was able to move with her family back to the U.S.

She went back to school and earned degrees in applied science for computer electronics and computer science. She worked as an engineer before being promoted to manager and eventually earned an MBA. From there, she took the leap to start her own company in 2008.

But not every veteran, she acknowledges, can follow the same path.

“My concern is that, again, we’ve still got too many veterans falling through the cracks,” Ms. Redmon said.

The veteran/entrepreneur shared her thoughts in a television special, “Veterans N Transition,” which first aired Sunday on the PBS station WHUT-TV. SAMS Cares, the charitable arm of her company, plans a job fair and counseling session for veterans at its Springfield headquarters Nov. 18.

Ms. Redmon said she benefits from her days in uniform. The military excels at assimilating, Ms. Redmon said. When recruits show up for duty, their hair is cut and they trade civilian clothes for uniforms. There is a “spirit there that instantly bonds,” she said. After leaving the military, veterans often find themselves without the same level of support.

“That can be very devastating,” she said. “All that goes away when you leave the military.”

Veterans still face steep challenges in the job market when returning to the homefront. Analysts say former service members often face public misconceptions and some must deal with post-traumatic stress disorder and service-connected injuries as they try to find jobs.

Last year, there were 21.1 million veterans in the U.S., 573,000 of whom were unemployed, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. The more recent post-9/11 veterans struggle the most to transition into civilian jobs. The unemployment rate for both male and female post-9/11 veterans was higher than for nonveterans last year.

The Obama administration has taken steps to incorporate veterans back into civilian life, offering tax cuts for businesses who hire veterans. In 2011, first lady Michelle Obama and second lady Jill Biden launched Joining Forces, a program to support veterans and their families.

Ms. Redmon said that volunteering and raising awareness are among the best ways to support veterans.

“You may make a difference to someone and save them from getting lost,” she said.

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