LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — National Guardsman Jonathan Terry faced a long stint of unemployment when he returned home from serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. He spent more than a year searching for a job with comparable pay to what he earned as a soldier, but the best he could find paid him $10 per hour to be a bouncer at a bar.
Things got a little better when the 30-year-old landed a temporary job in January teaching leadership courses for the military in Lincoln, but that position could end soon due to federal budget cuts.
"I came back from Afghanistan thinking I could get a job and I was completely wrong," Terry said. He's back to square one and says he feels more discouraged than ever.
Veterans have given up their most vital career development years to serve their country, Terry said, so the government should lend support for the transition back into civilian life. That's why he and other young veterans are urging Nebraska lawmakers to pass two bills that would help them get a leg up when applying for government jobs.
The state's overall average veteran unemployment rate in 2011 was 3.9 percent — about the same as the civilian unemployment rate. But Bureau of Labor Statistics data from 2011 showed the unemployment rate for veterans who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan reached 11 percent in Nebraska __ similar to the national average of 10.9 percent in last August.
With the Afghanistan war winding down, more and more veterans will be searching for jobs, said John McNally, deputy director of the Nebraska Department of Veteran's Affairs. If they don't find jobs, McNally said, it's not because they lack skills, but because the economy isn't the best.
"It is not a veteran issue," he said. "It is an employment issue across the board."
Many employers are cautious to hire veterans returning from war, said Ryan McIntosh, a 24-year-old law student and Nebraska National Guard veteran. Employers worry about another military deployment or fear physiological battle wounds, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, he said.
"The cards are stacked against you in public- and private-sector jobs because you have to miss work for training," he said. "You have huge holes in your employment history, which can be hard to explain to employers."
McNally said veterans need the most help with translating their military service into a civilian resume.
Terry knows this all too well, saying it was a nightmare trying to match his skills and military duties to the job market. Terry used government programs to help him with his resume and went to the job fairs, but said the jobs didn't pay enough.