We'll start with a message from the Commander-in-Chief:
"No ceremony or parade, no hug or handshake is enough to truly honor that service," the president said, adding that the country must commit every day "to serving you as well as you've served us."
Tomorrow is a very important day for those of us who've served. It seems like forever since I wore a uniform, but I still get a few "thank you's" every year about this time, which is very cool. But to be honest, it's what you do for those other 364 days that really matters. And for the next fews years anyway, it will matter even more:
Over the next few years, he said, more than 1 million service members will make the transition to civilian life. As they come home, Obama urged their fellow citizens to always be there for them and their families.
The President should have said they will "try" to make the transition to civilian life. There are many hurdles to this, not the least of them being the unemployment situation, especially among female veterans:
The portion of post-9/11 veterans seeking work fell to 9.7 percent last month, compared to 10.1 percent in August and 11.7 percent in September 2011, according to BLS figures.
However, nearly one out of five women who served in the military at home or abroad during the two wars is now without a job, the new BLS statistics show. As the U.S. troop drawdown continues in Afghanistan, the unemployment rate for post-9/11 female vets surged to 19.9 percent in September, compared to 14.7 percent a year earlier and 12.1 percent in August.
There's no other way to explain that than pervasive sexism, however unintentional it may be. And the more overt, "She can get a husband to take care of her if she wants to" doesn't even deserve an argument.
But for those of you employers who are willing (and hopefully desirous) of hiring or re-hiring veterans, there are some things you need to know. First off, don't expect them to quickly adapt to their new work environment. Yes, they have (on average) a better aptitude for learning and performing tasks than other workers. But they've got some hindrances those other workers don't have to deal with, as well.
Two issues which we've talked about before are TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) and PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). Many veterans have been diagnosed with these ailments, but a much larger percentage are trying to work through these problems on their own.
There's a whole range of symptoms and reintegration problems associated with TBI, but here's the gist:
While they are (often) able to function at a relatively normal capacity, many of these folks suffer from memory problems, anxiety, sleep disorders, depression, ringing in their ears, dizziness, attention deficit, headaches, confusion, sensitivity to bright lights or loud noises, blurred vision, lethargy, etc.
For a large percentage of those suffering from mild TBI, these symptoms usually fade after a few weeks or months have passed. But during that time, and especially for returning National Guard and Reserve troops, living with those effects can be devastating. Trying to become a father or mother again, dealing with all the financial and home maintenance issues, trying to reintegrate back into their civilian job, being isolated from the structural life of the military, etc. When you're hitting on all eight cylinders, these things can be almost too much. You try to do that with TBI (or PTSD), and you're skating on thin ice.
The bottom line is, for a good portion of these folks, adapting to a new work situation, and eventually excelling at that job, is more than just possible, it's likely. But they need time, understanding and patience. And if you give them that, your business will benefit greatly in the long run.
That's how you can honor them for the other 364 days.