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Returning veterans not coming home to jobs

4:50 AM, Mar 26, 2012   |    comments
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NEW YORK -- They fought for our freedom and sacrificed for our country, but for millions of American veterans the hardest part of returning home is finding a job.

NBC teamed up with the organization Hiring Our Heroes to do just that.

From the deck of the U.S.S. Intrepid in New York, to Chicago, to Fort Hood, Texas, to a military base in Germany, job fairs will be held next week to help our unemployed veterans join the American workforce.

In a year of homecomings for our troops, the job market hasn't been as welcoming for veterans like David Ortiz.

"Not being one position after 80 to 100 interviews, you know after having a degree and after having that veteran status," Ortiz said.

When the retired Navy aviation technician couldn't find work in California, he traveled to Nevada to attend a job fair.

He is one of an estimated million unemployed veterans struggling to get a job.

"Overall for veterans, the employment picture is roughly the same as non veterans," said Kevin Schmiegel, Founder and Executive Director of Hiring Our Heroes. "What is alarming however is for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. They suffered from 12.1 percent unemployment on average during 2011 and younger veterans under the age of 25 suffered from 29.1 percent unemployment nationally."

Last year, Schmiegel, a 20-year Marine Corps veteran, created the program Hiring Our Heroes with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a non-government advocacy group.

He says women veterans are also having a tough time, where unemployment is 20 percent.

"It's struggling," said Iraq veteran Yadira Carrasquillo. "It's struggling all around and not having the money to do what you need to do."

Hiring Our Heroes has joined forces with NBC for a national hiring fair for military veterans and spouses, matching companies with veterans looking to apply what they've learned in the military to the workforce.

Along with the in-person job fairs next week, a virtual one will be held for U.S. service members around the world. Nearly 20,000 of which have already signed up to hunt for a job.

"The good things the veterans bring to the party is one, they're already mission oriented, that's what they do," said NBC Vice President of Business Development Val Nicholas. "Secondly, they're already leadership trained, and all of these traits that they will bring into a business is the stuff that we're all looking for."

The need for hiring programs is only expected to increase, as more veterans return home in the coming years.

By MICHELLE FRANZEN, NBC News

NBC News

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