Memorial Day is supposed to be a chance for the American People to honor those members of the armed forces who have died in combat. Although the day is intended to remind Americans that freedom was secured with the blood of others, it exists only to refresh our memory on an annual basis. The Free Peoples of the world need to contemplate and appreciate, on a daily basis, the reasons we enjoy so many freedoms. When considering all those men and women who survived war, yet put their lives on hold to fight on behalf of their countrymen, it is also necessary to reflect on the cost of their service.
The US military offers rewarding careers, including a comfortable salary and generous retirement packages, to many, but many more, whose service comes at the cost of missed opportunities, are not so well compensated. Others leave the military with physical and psychological scars that make it difficult for them to build, as well as sustain, quality lifestyles and healthy relationships. Even if they overcome these barriers, their experience from the service often does not help them in the civilian labor market. Just like older workers, college graduates lacking “relevant experience,” the long-term employed, and numerous other demographics, vets can easily be victims of a “disqualified” mentality.
This writer was recently introduced to an older combat vet who has struggled to find work for over three and a half years. When he left the military several years ago, he was unable to find a job that would utilize his experience from the service. He did, however, find work in a factory cutting sheet metal. Utilizing the discipline, work ethic, and service mentality that allowed him to excel in the military, he sought new opportunities. Once all of his work was done and his work area was well-organized, he would motion to the crane operate, who would allow him to practice using the crane. The management took notice and allowed him to continue to learn until he became an experienced crane operator.
After the company failed decades later, he struggled to find steady work, especially during the Great Recession. He eventually took a job at a steel mill. Where his former employer saw his work ethic and willingness to learn as a strength, his new supervisors saw it as a threat to their authority. During his interview, the hiring manager informed him that one of the “big wigs” had recommended him, so he had to interview him. Between constant harassment, threats, lies, and humiliating insults, it was a living nightmare to work there. One day, he happened to get sick and soiled himself. He cleaned himself up with some paper towels, but he was fired for “making poor choices.”
Despite a strong work ethic, service record, and solid experience, they fired him for being ill. The human resource managers and supervisors of this company made it a practice to find any reason why not to hire someone and to find any excuse to fire someone, if they could. His former employer valued, and rewarded, all the traits that made this person an exceptional worker. Since then, he has worked with the Veterans Affairs and PA Careerlinks to unsuccessfully apply to over 500 positions that he was more than qualified to get. Frankly, businesses need good workers to be successful and to remain successful. Looking for any reason to disqualify someone, instead of seeking out what a person has to offer, is why businesses, industries, and economies fail.
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