Honor veterans by hiring them

03/23/2013 8:16 PM

03/24/2013 7:25 PM

Anyone unsure about our respect for America’s military men and women need only check a recent notice that showed up on my Facebook page.

Someone had seen a bumper sticker that read, “½ of my heart is in Afghanistan,” and left on the windshield two $20 bills and this scribbled note: “I noticed the sticker on your car. Take your hero out to dinner when he comes home. Thank you both for serving, him deployed and you for waiting.’’

I think it’s safe to say that in the past two decades, beginning with the first Gulf War, Americans have come to show members of the armed forces a kind of respect that had been missing since the end of World War II.

I served midway between Korea and Vietnam and always felt like an outsider on those few times that I wore my uniform beyond the base.

Remaining low key about my military affiliation seemed important; indeed, a couple of girls I dated had to break it off when their dad learned I was a Marine.

It was a time of peace, of course, and I never felt any of the ugly harassment returning Vietnam veterans received, the spitting and cursing by the most radical opponents of the war.

That kind of treatment is hard to fathom today.

I’ve been in airport terminals where people – including myself – seemed to view soldiers with a kind of awe.

We all understand that these are the people who have been doing all of our dirty work in Afghanistan and Iraq.

They are the ones sacrificing their future – and the futures of their families – so the rest of us can go about our own lives with so little interruption. They are keeping us free from fear of another terrorist attack, and they certainly do deserve our admiration and respect and support.

They also deserve a job when they return home and to that end, a recent Labor Department report is troubling.

According to the department, the average unemployment rate in 2012 for new veterans aged 18-24 was a staggering 20.4 percent. That was about five points higher than for non-veterans in the same age group.

The disparity makes no sense, wrote Tom Tarantino of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America: “Young veterans enter the workforce with far more skills and experience than their civilian peers. Logically, they should be employed at a higher rate, not lower.’’

Is it patriotic to hire a veteran, a way to say thanks for placing yourself in harm’s way to protect the rest of us? Of course it is.

But employers don’t have to be altruistic about it.

Most veterans bring with them a sense of responsibility, dedication and discipline that is well above par for people their age. And those employers who recognize it get a real bargain.

It wasn’t too many years ago that my youngest son, freshly discharged from the Navy, needed a job.

I called a friend who was a greens superintendent on one of the Grand Strand’s finest golf complexes, mentioned my son’s military background, and got this immediate response:

“Send him over.”

I did, and after all these years, my son is there still.

Not a bad hire – hint, hint.

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