A Veteran Is A Terrible Thing to Waste

by lewwaters

Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”
British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, 20 August 1940.

Although spoken in regards to British Airmen who faced what seemed like insurmountable odds against the approaching Germans in what we now refer to as “the Battle of Britain,” and then defeated them, protecting their homeland, that simple phrase also shows how historically, in times of conflict, a small minority of the citizens don the uniform to fight for and defend our way of life.

In World War Two it was approximately one in ten served in the ranks. Today, it is less than 1% who has been sent off to face those who would like nothing more than to see our culture destroyed and replaced by their misguided and oppressive views.

Since we no longer have compulsory service, drafting able bodied and qualified young men to serve, leaving them little or no choice in serving, we depend on advertisements and military recruiters to fill the ranks by appealing to people’s patriotism, desire to better their education or those who would just like to travel, learn a trade, learn to fly or operate technical equipment. For whatever reason a young person might have, there is a very good chance that the various branches of the military has a need for people to serve in that capacity and are willing to train them.

But when the shooting stops at wars end or that person fulfills their enlistment contract and returns to civilian life, what then? What happens with that training, education and experience gained, often at great expense to taxpayers?

An article in the June 2012 edition of Readers Digest addressing returning Veterans quotes one former infantry platoon leader as saying, “Jumping out of airplanes and raiding houses doesn’t come in handy when you’re doing business development at a design firm.”

Such words could lead one to believe that military training has no functional purpose of benefit to society or potential employers. And those people would be wrong. Oh, it’s true that we don’t need people to go around kicking in doors, but even infantry soldiers have far greater talents and training than just “kicking in doors.”

They have discipline. They have courage to face a task, no matter how large it may seem. They have teamwork, the ability to follow orders or give orders and then cooperate and work alongside others to accomplish the task. They know how to pick up the ball or bolster the person next to them who may be faltering or tiring out.

Above all, they’re dependable. They have learned to work under pressure, quickly assess a situation to make quick decisions, often in matters of life and death and carry it through.

They do far more than just “kick in doors.”

But what of others not in the infantry? What of their training? The Military is a team effort. From cooks in the mess hall to the guy loading a howitzer. From the company clerk to the commanding officer. From the mechanics and technicians who stay up all night repairing a helicopter in the field to the crew that climb in the next morning to fly their mission and return safely, it is a team effort, top to bottom.

There too, the training and experience gained is a result of long hours of study, cooperation and learning from those who you serve with. Quick assessment and diagnosis of malfunctioning equipment and repairing it can mean the difference between a pinned down squad being rescued or left to be slaughtered by our enemies.

These are skills learned quickly under such conditions that they remain with you for a lifetime. They carry forward after leaving the service and guide a chosen career, should the returning Vet be hired.

Although present after every one of our wars, the fear of hiring a Veteran never should have been. Stories of “walking time bombs” and “trained killers” used by those opposed to our defending our shores against enemies are more hype than anything.

Our all too willing media prides themselves on “Support the Troops,” but in the instance of one messing up, the headlines would leave the public to believe it is common place.

Don’t you ever find it odd that the media doesn’t feel the need to delve into the background of others who commit heinous acts as deeply as they feel the need to when it might be a Veteran who does wrong?

Are employers fearful over claims of PTSD? What of civilian employees who might have seen a severe auto accident or been in one? Or once been married to an abusive spouse? Or grew up with abusive parents? Any number of reasons can contribute to PTSD, several not even related to Military Service.

But who worries about those who didn’t serve and might be affected by PTSD? Does the employer even ask or consider them as potentially suffering from it?

And what about training and experience? As our involvement in the current conflict seems to be winding down, we see thousands of highly trained, highly skilled and motivated people returning and not seeking glory, just a chance to get on with their lives.

These are people trained in delicate electronics repair, exacting repair and maintenance on aircraft, computer use and repair and so much more. Even those trained in maintenance of their individual weapon has learned to do it in exacting detail.

When I left the Army in 1977 after 8 years around aviation and repairs on helicopters, achieving the status of Tech Inspector, the one who makes the final determination if a repair is satisfactory or not to clear the aircraft for flight, I was stunned to see that all of my training mattered little to potential employers. Many weren’t even interested in what all I was trained and experienced in.

It is unbelievable to see that over three decades later, it hasn’t changed, many employers either are afraid or are just unwilling to take a chance on all of that training and experience the Veteran applying for a job has received.

Even in these tough economic times, seeing that Veterans unemployment rate is so much higher than the general population escapes logic and reason. Are our Troops no longer worthy of that support we boasted of once they return and reenter civilian life?

Parades, ribbons on trees or even applause as they walk through an airport after returning is great and appreciated.

Taking a chance and giving them a job, taking advantage of those skills they have learned is even better.

Years ago an ad for a college fund claimed, “a mind is a terrible thing to waste.”

It is even more wasteful to allow all of the skills acquired and experiences learned by our Veterans to waste away as well.

You’re willing to take a chance on unknown politicians every couple years, why not take a chance on skilled Veterans now?

11 Comments to “A Veteran Is A Terrible Thing to Waste”

  1. Beautifully written.

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  2. Well done Lew. The loyalty and teamwork skills alone that the veterans have ingrained should be enough to entice an employer into hiring them. These are traits too hard to find in the civilian sector and so necessary to the success of businesses.

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  3. I have a number of 30 to 40 year old friends who were from GulfWar 1 and 2 (before the Afghanistan conflict) who Lew covered SO well! Thank your for saying so well!!!

    Carolyn & Kelly – I so agree.

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  4. It costs taxpayers a significant amount of money to train people in the Military. That’s why some capacities require a lengthened enlistment contract.

    It’s a shame that those who paid for all of that training and the expense of housing, travel and feeding us for the years we were in don’t see what they miss out on by not taking advantage of the training they paid for us to receive.

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  5. Lew…

    Definitely one of your best writes, sir. It is so tragic that our fighting brave who have come back “home” or are awaiting their return are coming back to a nation with a broken economy. I won’t go into why I believe our economy is broken as that is not my point. We all know why it has happened so I won’t waste any more time on that.

    The unemployment rate over the past several years truly represents what we have become. Our fighting brave…the heroes of our nation who I believe never consider themselves as heroes…are coming back home in numbers…back home to little or no employment opportunities because the jobs just aren’t there and what jobs are available…150 or more people are waiting, hoping for those few jobs. Students fresh out of our colleges, our universities…are homeless or are living with their parents…unable to obtain even a foothold of their dream for the very same reason. Each and every major intersection, every highway ramp and just about every major shopping facility has scores of folks competing for that prime place to stand…holding signs stating something similar to “Please Help! Anything…food, money, clothing…”

    When will people wake up and realize…

    We are in the midst of the Greatest Depression America has ever witnessed. This truly IS an American Tragedy when the homeless shelters are overflowing and the Rescue Missions must take meals outside to those waiting in line because there’s no room on the tables indoors. It truly IS an American Tragedy when family members resort to killing their partners, then themselves due to economic woes because of nowhere to turn…and it certainly is an American Tragedy when the pomp and circumstance of celebrating our heroes’ return home from battle dies down and our fighting brave have nowhere to turn and need our help…and we can’t even help ourselves.

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  6. I include the military in with science & education as the most important ingredients of a civilization. The glorification, idolization and idealizing of military service does concern me, however. Normally, I wouldn’t even write this much on the subject (like I don’t write about religion) but it seemed appropriate to point out that I (a Liberal) have the same reverence towards those who pursue knowledge, and I think they should receive the same benefits that you *seem* to reserve for soldiers. (I’m not arguing – just trying to improve understanding.)

    p.s. my logic is Eisenhower to protect Einstein.

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  7. While I have no disrespect or problem with those seeking higher education (knowledge), I must point out that is far less likely to get one killed or maimed.

    Seeking knowledge is for the one seeking it.

    Defending the country is for all within it, including those seeking knowledge.

    It is not a matter of “glorification, idolization or idealizing,” but caring for those who sacrifice on behalf of others for little in return.

    And, seeking higher rank in the Military does entail a great deal of seeking knowledge.

    Which comes back to the post, why waste what these people have been taught and not utilize it in the job market?

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  8. I think I’ll stop here because you haven’t said anything I disagree with but there is definitely something in your post (and others like it) that unsettles me. It might be the implication of special status but you haven’t said that either. ( I guess I’ll wait for a good “gay marriage” post to say something profound.) Sorry for the intrusion.

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  9. Lew – I think I can speak for the SEVERAL friends of mine that have been looking for work, both former military, national guard recipients of various branches and types. I have one friend that has been looking for near 3 years. He is a former IT guy who would put ME to shame over the knowledge he has. Though he does not live in Clark County, I’m always on the prowl to find him work if I hear of some thing. I have got him several temporary assignments, but what he really needs is a long term employment job.

    I have suggested that he may need to relocate somewhere else than where he is currently living. And he’s made note of that and is considering moving. It is just the WAY the market is. You have to be able to market yourself and be able to sell solutions to problems that someone might be facing. That is how you are going to be able to stay employed from what I am seeing.

    I know of other friends from military conflicts from Gulf-War 1 til now that are having even MORE trouble finding work. Is there a preferential – minority type of status that we can place on these people?

    But I think I can try and place SOME thought from Goldie’s post. I agree with her on good attempt to try to show that really, there ARE no jobs in certain sectors of our economy. And those that have money are simply not going to be frivolous with it to go hire people that can’t make money on. Its that simple. And with the modern age that we live, we can move jobs around the world with a click of a mouse?

    Has anyone ever thought of us? I know a number of friends from the tech industry that use services that hire foreign labor to do the basic, menial tasks of what a secretary can do. They just leave an audio file with the service to be typed up, research done or jobs like typing in records from computer scans to typists all over the world that get paid by the page or amount of data entered. Think of an Amazon type service where the data is shopped out and the world’s poor take it on because it means $$$.

    I do believe Clark County has one thing going for it. And it may not be true of other places in the United States. We have a can-do attitude, we don’t allow whining or suffering per se. And a lot of people NETWORK their way into a business opportunity or an employment situation. And maybe some who have lived high on the hog as I term it, need to live a simple, more simplified lifestyle before they get. That means dumping the cell phone, the internet and many other modern gadgetry. (If you need internet access, the library and most coffee shops are NEAR free!)

    Lew & others, are there examples around here of veterans being successful in starting their own businesses? They might not he hiring, but it may show that they are standing up for what little they have left and are ready to start a dream?? Owning or running a business IMHO is 10x the work than running around looking for work in many professions that are simply no longer existing….

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  10. But I wanted to finish up and say, owning a business CAN be rewarding but also people need to know there are no safety nets in life anymore. Look at the federal level on what is bring proposed in cuts to the safety nets. Running a business IS slave work if you don’t know that already. But would you rather be a slave in your own right than barely making it on social societal services??

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  11. Martin, my point in the post isn’t assigning anything special or preferable over others, but that we who served in the Military were trained in some pretty intricate things. In my case, helicopters.

    I was trusted as the guy who said whether or not it was flight worthy, over ruling all officers save the commanding officer. If I said it wasn’t to fly, it didn’t fly. The only person who could over rule my word there was the commanding officer, who then assumed full responsibility for anything that might happen to the aircrew and aircraft. That’s a very responsible position as my expertise held the lifes of several people in my hands. Decisions weren’t made lightly.

    Yet, when I left the Army, none of that training mattered. Even if there was an opening, I wasn’t qualified. Taxpayers paid for my training and yet, it did not matter at all once out.

    We are trusted with Millions of dollars worth of equipment and well trained in caring for them.

    So why not trust Veterans once out as well?

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