Connecting Veterans and Employers: Employment rates on the rise for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans
Washington, DC—Wounded Warriors are all too familiar with the hard fact of life that we must react to life events that are unplanned and unwanted. For many, the death of their dreams in the military has ultimately led to realizing their destiny in the civilian business world. Regaining a sense of purpose by finding meaningful employment is paramount for many healing from the wounds of combat. In March of 2011, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce launched Hiring Our Heroes, a nationwide initiative focused on one measure of success—jobs for the one million unemployed Veterans in America.
In its first year, the program hosted 130 hiring fairs and helped connect more than 100,000 Veterans and military spouses with 5,000 different employers. According to a recent article in CNN Money, the jobless rate for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans has fallen to 7.6%, well below the overall U.S. unemployment rate of 8.3%, and nearly five percentage points below the 12.5% rate for Veterans a year ago. This year, the Hiring Our Heroes program hopes to expand upon its success by holding hiring fairs in 400 communities.
The program’s success has relied on the efforts of the media and employers that have made it a priority to hire Veterans, like Halfaker. Dawn Halfaker, CEO of Halfaker, is a former military police captain who lost her right arm in Iraq in 2004. “I know what it’s like to get injured and have your career taken away from you. I felt a huge void,” she said. "So I want to make sure my company is a vehicle to offer opportunities to other warriors." Nearly half of the 170 employees at Halfaker are Veterans and 10% of them are Wounded Warriors. In addition to providing meaningful employment for Veterans, Dawn works with many organizations that promote Veteran employment and entrepreneurship and advocates on behalf of Wounded Warriors.
After nearly a decade at war, countless Wounded Warriors have sustained severe physical injuries—amputations, burns, spinal cord injuries, loss of vision and more. But many more suffer from invisible wounds that have taken a very real toll on our Wounded Warriors. Having a meaningful job with a supportive work environment is imperative for the wellbeing of our Wounded Warriors. Additionally, Veterans bring with them transferable skills they developed on the battlefield: doing more with less; turning adversity into opportunity; and letting nothing stop them or stand in their way—traits that will help corporations succeed in today’s challenging economy.
Pleased by the recent positive trend in Veteran employment rates, Dawn hopes that the government, employers and media continue to promote Veteran employment, “Lets all take the next step by working to help service members overcome the barriers they face during their transition; I can’t think of a better way to strengthen your corporate team and pay it forward to those that have given so much for our nation.”