Veterans of recent wars confront grim employment landscape
By Michael A. Fletcher
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 30, 2010; 12:25 AM
IN HAUPPAUGE, N.Y. During the seven months that he was stationed in Iraq, Joe Janssen served as an assaultman, a job that involved manning the turret gun in a Humvee and using shoulder-fired rockets and other explosives to support his fellow Marines.
Those skills were invaluable in war. But they are of little use now that he is back home in Hauppauge, N.Y., a Long Island hamlet. He has applied for job after job since leaving active duty well over a year ago, but his efforts have proved futile.
The Marine reservist used his veterans benefits to finish his bachelor's degree in criminal justice. Now he is scouring for a job in law enforcement while he waits for his name to rise to the top of the New York state police hiring list - which is unlikely to be anytime soon, given the state's severe budget problems.
"I have a passion to be a cop," said Janssen, 23, a fitness buff who dabbles in mixed martial arts. "But no one is hiring."
Janssen's experience is common among the 2 million veterans of the long-running wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. As they return home to the worst labor market in generations, the veterans who are publicly venerated for their patriotism and service are also having a harder time than most finding work, federal data show.
While their nonmilitary contemporaries were launching careers during the nearly 10 years the nation has been at war, troops were repeatedly deployed to desolate war zones. And on their return to civilian life, these veterans are forced to find their way in a bleak economy where the skills they learned at war have little value.