In celebration of Veteran’s Day thought I’d run an editorial from the Wall Street Journal in its entirety…Why Veterans Make Good Employees by Eric K. Shinseki.
Happy Veterans Day to all the men and women who serve and have served in the Armed Forces of the United States of America.
And to Vietnam veterans, “Welcome Home!” That generation remembers returning from war to a country so divided and distracted by internal politics that it had little interest in what they had been doing for the nation. The slight was palpable, and the memory of it has lasted decades. Hence, “Welcome Home!” became their greeting for one another, and for no one else, because it was the greeting they never received.
Post-Vietnam government downsizing included military reductions in force, which let go hundreds of thousands of military personnel. For many, jobs were scarce, at least the good jobs, and educational benefits were not as generous as the original GI Bill after World War II. There was an air of disdain for the military and for those who had served in Vietnam–nothing confrontational, nothing openly disrespectful, but studied indifference. It was a difficult time to be a veteran.
Since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, almost three million American men and women have answered our nation’s call to arms to defeat what came to be known as al Qaeda and those associated with it. Now, after 10 years of war, almost 1,350,000 who deployed overseas have returned to our communities. But more than 850,000 veterans of all generations remain unemployed. Over the next five years, we project that another one million will be leaving the military. We must not let the Vietnam experience repeat itself for this generation of veterans.
On Thursday, First Lady Michelle Obama announced a significant commitment by U.S. companies to hire 100,000 veterans and military spouses by 2014. This was a direct resonse by companies like Microsoft, Home Depot, Citi and UPS to President Obama’s challenge to the private sector to offer jobs and career opportunities to veterans, wounded warriors and their families. These companies, like the ones who have already hired veterans will not be sorry. Veterans make exceptional employees in any organization because in serving their country they have acquired invaluable skills, including:
—Decision-making skills primed by quick, clear thinking.
—Proven leadership skills, honed in the most challenging operational
—The knowledge and experience needed to be sophisticated team-
builders and natural team-players.
—A work ethic that demonstrates an unwavering commitment to
Our veterans are remarkable men and women, and we thank them and their families for their service and sacrifice, as we do those currently serving.
Veterans bring a positive, mission-first, no-fail, no-quit attitude to any organization they join. They have been an extraordinary force for good–whether capturing Saddam Hussein, delivering justice to Osama bin Laden, or working with local leaders and training the military forces of both Afghanistan and Iraq to assume responsibility for their own defense. They are value-added to any organization.
President Obama understands our solemn obligation to veterans and the critical role they will play in getting our economy back on track. He has pushed many veteran-hiring initiatives, including the American Jobs Act, which includes significant tax credits for businesses that hire veterans, particularly those who have service-connected disabilities and those who have been unemployed for a long time.
The Vietnam generation still bears scars from the tough living many had to go through to emerge from their hearts of darkness. So, to my Vietnam veteran comrades, and to their sons and daughters, especially those who have been highly successful: Are we going to let the same thing happen to this generation of youngsters?
Of course not. We must join together with the president on this Veterans Day and pledge that never again will a veteran come home to joblessness and homelessness, to apathy and indifference. We will work hard to ensure they find meaningful employment.
At Veterans Affairs, we have more than 100,000 veterans in our workforce–about one-third of all we employ–and we have set a target for 40%. Without an ambitious goal, we would not be trying hard enough. The Vietnam generation bore the brunt of indifference, and we must not allow our current generation of veterans to suffer that injustice.
Let’s get out there to mobilize our communities and ensure that veterans have the opportunity to compete. We have some great young men and women counting on us to come through for them and their families. Let’s not let them down. Happy Veteran’s Day and Welcome Home!
(Mr. Shinseki, a retired United States Army four-star general, is secretary of Veterans Affairs.)