Tahlequah Daily Press

March 22, 2013

Our veterans deserve help from rest of us


TAHLEQUAH — Anyone who’s ever served in the military knows it can be difficult to make the transition to civilian life, especially after a lengthy tour of duty.

Some veterans may find it an almost insurmountable task – especially if they are fit to return to the job market, but don’t know how to go about it.

The Oklahoma Workforce Veterans Job Club could throw a lifeline to soldiers and sailors who want to get back into a “game” that’s so much different than the one they’ve been playing.

It’s obvious they do need help. In Oklahoma, the jobless rate is about 6.9 percent, but for veterans, it’s 11.8 percent. Demographically, veterans – both men and women – are the highest unemployed group across the country.

In some cases, veterans may be approaching the civilian workforce tentatively, because they’re not confident they’ll be successful. And they have good reason for feeling that way, since many employers are reluctant to put a veteran on the payroll.

When asked to explain their reticence, employers say they fear the veteran will have to leave the job for an extended period of duty, or because they suspect  the veteran may suffer from post-traumatic stress or some other ailment.

Ryan Davis, a veterans employment representative with the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission, offices out of Muskogee, but he was in Tahlequah last week to lead the inaugural Veterans Job Club meeting. He brought with him representatives from three area businesses that emphasize veterans’ hiring.

The idea was to allow veterans to ask questions, and receive straightforward answers, on how to get a leg up in the job market. Davis says the group intends to meet here the third Wednesday of every month.

These business owners and managers understand the sacrifice made by veterans for their country, and for their fellow citizens, should earn them some consideration once they’re back on civilian soil. Though they don’t promise positions, they offer sage advice.

 That’s important, because sometimes, veterans have become rusty on their job-seeking skills, or in many cases, they’ve never been exposed in the first place.

This useful information might include building a resume; filling out a proper application; learning to spotlight the appropriate skills and experience; expressing flexibility, honesty and integrity; maintaining a rapport with co-workers; dressing for success; and honing interviewing skills. For the rest of us, too, it’s worth remembering that what works for the military doesn’t always work in civilian life.

As for all other segments of society, veterans who have left the military and are fit to work should do so. But if they need a bit of help finding a suitable job, and landing it once they find it, the rest of us owe them a helping hand. The Veterans Job Club is one small step toward hitting that goal.

Veterans who want more information should call (918) 682-3364. Business owners or managers who want to jump on this worthy bandwagon should make the call, too. In a sense, veterans have paid a debt to our country that the rest of us really owed.