March 29th, 2012
04:43 PM ET

'Vets Wanted?' documentary touches on veteran unemployment

Editor's note: Overseas, they fight for freedom. In America, they fight for jobs. “Voters In America: Vets Wanted?” is the first part of a CNN In America documentary series on American voters. Narrated by J.R. Martinez. Re-airing May 19th at 8 p.m. ET on CNN.

By David Matthews, CNN

(CNN) - The Georgia National Guard's 877th Engineering Company spent most of 2011 building bridges and clearing roads in Afghanistan. But when these soldiers returned home before Christmas, they came back to uncertainty: about half of the 877th Company was unemployed. Unlike active duty soldiers who come home to a base and a military paycheck, National Guard soldiers are expected to come back to their pre-deployment jobs. But for many National Guard soldiers, these jobs don't exist.

From Georgia and Florida, to Ohio and Alabama, National Guard units are coming back with many of their soldiers facing unemployment.  The former chief for Employment and Education Outreach for the Guard believes it is a problem the military is just now coming to grips with.  National Guard soldiers report difficulty in finding work in a tough economic climate and believe that their service puts them at a disadvantage.

Our CNN In America documentary follows the soldiers of the 877th on their journey back to their civilian lives.  After the soldiers' reunions with their families, we chronicle their search for jobs and their reconnection with loved ones.  We will be there with them as they attend job fairs and interviews, and examine the challenges facing our veterans coming home.

Specialist Thomas Gober just came back from volunteering to deploy for the third time  in five years, because he couldn’t find a civilian job to support his wife and two young kids. Some National Guard soldiers are finding themselves in vicious cycles of voluntary deployments because they can’t find work. Sergeant Christopher Wiley has lost a previous job because of what he feels was his employer punishing him for being gone with the National Guard. Now back at home, this grandfather with management experience is delivering pizzas to pay the bills.

By telling the stories of the 877th, we will look at the issues confronting many veterans and their families.  As we move further into the 2012 election cycle, unemployment is a top issue for both voters and politicians.  Narrated by veteran J.R. Martinez and airing in May, "Vets Wanted?" will examine the issue of veteran unemployment by focusing on the challenges facing soldiers of the National Guard when they come home.

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Filed under: 2012 Election • Disabilities • Discrimination • Documentaries • Economy • Veterans
soundoff (22 Responses)
  1. Gregory Faith

    One question: Why in the world would you send weekend warriors to another country? They are the "National Guard" They are supposed to be HERE when we need them after a disaster HERE. They are for us to use as we will for the protection of US! Now you take them away, bring them back and forget about them. Shame on the Military! Don't ever do that again. National Guardsmen and women should be never sent anyplace outside the United States. Send them to the boarder and fend off the Mexicans and the others coming into the US.

    April 27, 2012 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse |
  2. TheBusdriver

    It's even more difficult finding a job as a disabled vet. I've been trying for 3 years.

    April 18, 2012 at 4:58 am | Report abuse |
    • 68whiskey

      got you beat. I am a disabled Vet and I've been unemployed 5 years. All these programs and media that say they hire vets, not true. Most employers are looking for 0-3's and above. So what happens to us that had a real job in the Military, apparently nothing. 5 years and waiting.

      April 21, 2012 at 11:14 am | Report abuse |
      • Os work

        That's kind of harsh. I know in Vietnam you were probably out in the field every days for months on end. I was in the same boat in Iraq as an O-2 (the military is but a fraction of what it was in the Vietnam era, everybody doubles up with jobs and work).

        May 14, 2012 at 8:55 am | Report abuse |
      • cw

        Os, the discriminating factor is military service with a heavy discriminaiton placed on current and continued service in the Guard and Reserve. Example is seen in the generous 1.2% of total employees hired by Department of Agriculture that were disabled veterans, Jan through June 2011. (4th largest Government Employer). O's and E's are alike in this one.

        June 21, 2012 at 10:23 pm | Report abuse |
  3. antonio

    Many businesses would say how much they support the veterans just so they can get their names out there to demonstrate how much they care about the vets. Many are just using the "I support the vets" as their PR stunt. Now that the vets are returning home from the war, and are asking these employers to offer them jobs, many just close the doors on the vets' faces. What a shame! All talk and no action.

    April 17, 2012 at 8:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • freakydeaky

      It's the same with the federal government, especially, the VA.

      May 6, 2012 at 4:32 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Jim Weeder

    Well being a Viet Nam era vet I get the double wammie! Now without saying it I am too old! those idiots dont know what they are loseing out on! and what really gets me is the lazy slobs I work with at Wal-Mart that have not served a day in their life gripe when they have to do a little work!

    April 17, 2012 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Peryenthia

    It is shameful with the lack of support that we have/are giving Veterans. Part of the issue is the communication style of service men and women. Most don't use the same politically correct lingo as civilians. They tend to be much more direct and upfront which may sometimes transfer over as rude and insensitive. Another issue is there is not a good description of transferable job skillls into corporate culture. WE HAVE GOT TO FIX THESE ISSUES!!!! Veterans have fought for the right to be upfront, and certainly posses job skills that most of us only dream about.

    I am working on some very exciting initiatives for Veterans....... help is on the way. Thanks for all you do.

    April 16, 2012 at 1:36 pm | Report abuse |

    Speaking as a AD Vet it took me almost a year after I seperated to find a job. I lost my home and other belongings becasue I could not find a job. I filled out about ten applications a day. Most employers didnt even give me a response. Whiile other sent me the generated reply that I was not what they were looking for. I didnt actually get a job until I removed almost all of my Military qualificaitons from my resume. It was really sad a disheartening to be rejected after serving my country.

    April 13, 2012 at 12:40 am | Report abuse |
    • Randal

      I'm a recent college graduate. I spent about 10 years in the military between AD and the Reserves. I've took my military experience off my resume and started to get call backs and interviews. I've interviewed at places that say they have received awards from the government for hiring and taking care of vets but a lot of us never get the call for the final interview process. It's been a stressful battle trying to support my family. So even with a degree I feel I've wasted I'll be heading back over the raod as a truck driver. A lot of money wasted on an education.

      May 13, 2012 at 9:04 pm | Report abuse |
  7. RichieP

    I don't want to sound crass, but unemployment is over 8%. I don't see how you can say people are discriminating against vets, when there simply are not enough jobs to be had.

    April 12, 2012 at 11:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tim

      It's simple RichieP. You look at the percentage of unemployed veteran's to non-veterans.

      April 16, 2012 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |
  8. YMCV

    To be honest, I did get rejected employment because I am the in the reserve. They wont admit it because its against the law. But that was the main reason. The rejection hit me hard, because it made me think that the american people only want people who can make them money. If there is a chance that people may not be there to make them money, there would rather put the resume last on the list of qualified people. I started thinking, most people have no clue of what a soldier goes thru in a war zone to "protect america". The decent thing to do is offer him/her a job as a thank you. Even if it means that you may have to hire someone else and retrain a different person in a year or so.

    April 11, 2012 at 10:39 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Contracted

    National Guard and Reserve Service Members have numerous opportunities to receive help finding a civilian job and keeping it pre and post deployment. If you need assistance please contact your state ESGR program. Also check out the MOS website, the VA, the Department of Workforce Services and your local Guard Support Center.

    April 11, 2012 at 11:06 am | Report abuse |
    • cw

      Also realize: ESGR is "Non-Judicial" meaning ESGR relies on the employer having a desire to actually do the right thing.

      Simply put, were the employer willing to do the right thing, the soldier would never have been put in that position to begin with. This throws us back to expecting those in VETS and DOL who are empowered with the duty to make us just as the employer was required by law to never have harmed us, "as if not one hair on their head was harmed."

      How does an organization with no authority to act correct anything where the organization with both responsibility and authority is allowed to take no accountability?

      June 21, 2012 at 8:33 pm | Report abuse |
      • LT

        If they do not comply with ESGR, the DOJ gets involved. If thats not quick enough many lawyers will work on conteng. terms. If the employer is wilfully violating the law they can be hit with liquidated damages in an equal amount to any back pay and they still have rehire you at the end of all that.

        September 8, 2012 at 9:57 am | Report abuse |
  10. Art

    The jobs have been moved to China. Sorry.

    April 9, 2012 at 10:27 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Richp

    There are many of us out here who will bump a vet to the top of the short list when we get their resumes. Other than USAjobs we really need a vet dedicated job search site that employers can advertise on first.

    April 9, 2012 at 3:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Andy

      Its hard to find such employers. I gave up just on trying to get hired off my military experience. Only jobs I could land were horrible temp jobs breaking my back doing drone work so I'm not using my GI Bill benefits which fortunately pays enough to cover my expenses and give me a little extra plus hopefully will make me more desirable when I have some college as well.

      April 12, 2012 at 9:22 am | Report abuse |