Friday, November 11, 2011

Veteran's Day

My paternal grandfather was a pilot in WW2.  My father was a Navy ship doc in the Persian Gulf and spent 27 years in the service.  My mom was an enlisted nurse.  My brother is in Alaska with the Coast Guard jumping out of helicopters every day to ensure safety in treacherous waters.  He also did a tour in the Caribbean stopping migrants and drug runners from hitting our shores.  I've been around the military my entire life. 

So when I got my Air Force ROTC scholarship to be an aerospace engineer designing sweet airplanes like the F-22, I guess you could say it was pretty much my destiny. 

Unless, of course, you take into consideration that I am too stubborn to listen to authority and hate following orders, especially if everyone else is following them.

But that's besides the point.  It's Veteran's Day.  Which makes me reflect on my 26 years of living in almost constant contact with military families and the problems that these people face.  You know what's great?  That 9 out of 10 veterans will be thanked for their service today. 

You know what's not great?  That the unemployment rate for veterans is 12.1%.  And when you break that down further, it's 30% for veterans 18-24 years old.  Compare this to the 19% unemployment for recent college grads.  But let's be fair here - a good number of those college grads SHOULDN'T be employed because they majored in leisure or woman's studies. Just hypothesizing and rounding, let's say that there is even 15% of recent college grads who don't have a job but majored in something useful.

You also have to consider that there are some college grads who just went to school because their parents made them, and are now on their parents' couch working at Urban Outfitters.  And college grads who can afford to be picky about their career path because they're still on their parents' health insurance and want to wait out the recession until that dream career comes knocking on their door. 

But every single veteran who comes back from a tour of duty has done a service for their country that relatively few have the balls to do.  Sure, some enter in for different reasons.  Hell, I wanted someone to pay for my school, so I signed up for ROTC.  Then when things hit the fan, I dropped out and tried to enlist because they were waving a $20k signing bonus in my face.  And to a 19 year old kid, $20k is a LOT of money.  Actually, I don't know many people that would say it's not a lot of money.  Except, maybe, me from the future.  That's right, we talk.

Sorry, got on a tangent there.  What I'm trying to say is that despite anyone's reasons for getting in the military, they all sacrifice something.  And they come back to 30% unemployment after a year long tour in the asshole of Hell - Afghanistan.  Or it's close neighbor the dirty taint of hell - Iraq.  We kids who went to college? What did we sacrifice?  I mean, besides a couple million brain cells from getting drunk and falling down the stairs. 

I'm not saying that we should feel guilty for not serving in the military, or that there should be mandatory service (though it seems like a good idea, although I haven't thought it through entirely).  I'm just saying that for God's sake - we've gotta do more than just thank these folks.  If that's all we're doing, we're just giving them lip service.  Which, hey, it's been a long time for some of them - they might need that (sorry - dirty joke). 

But Christ, in 2011, there were about 11k troops just from Iraq and Afghanistan that were homeless.  That's not counting veterans from before these wars or from other theaters of operation.  Going off of the roughly 130k troops in both Iraq and Afghanistan, that's an 8.5% chance that you'll be homeless once you come back from war.  WTF. 

So yes, absolutely.  Thank a vet today.  And every day for that matter.  But please.  They need more than thanks.  They need good, paying jobs.  And for christ's sake - if they're responsible and reliable enough to handle a gun that looks like this:

without killing themselves or others (except for the bad guys) all while coordinating with their platoons to effectively clear buildings and neighborhoods while minimizing casualties, I think they'll be responsible and reliable enough to hand in their TPS reports on time.

So Happy Veteran's day.  And if you've served our country in any way, thank you.  The second I own my own business, I'll staff it entirely with veterans.  Should make for an interesting company picnic.


  1. Bill, I agree wholeheartedly. When Alex deployed to the Middle East for a year, it was very tough on us. His "private sector job" paid a lot more than his "Air Force Reservist" pay. Fortunately, we had some savings to tide us over. Having your significant other "in harm's way" is never fun. When Alex came home, his company laid him off because they were moving to Canada and downsizing. Great! Because I was working, I told him to get into graduate school and wait a bit before he started looking for work. He did and we were fine, if much poorer than we had been.

    Alex is a computer scientist. He is a software architect and developer. As a defense contractor, he's got a lot of work and is very well compensated. When people tell me about sending their kids to "liberal arts" schools, I really wonder what they are thinking. We need medical personnel, engineers, accountants, and people who can work and support themselves. Your kid may love dancing, singing, and writing poetry, but that same kid can't get a job doing those things. People who have served in the military have proven skills and the ability to follow orders and work with others. I'd rather hire a Vet any day than a "Sociology" major right out of school.

  2. The Marine Corps is at war and America is at the mall, eh?

    Yeah, it's terrible.

    I personally think we should have a mandatory 1-2 years of national service after high school. Doesn't have to be the Army: it can be something like Teach for America or building stuff or whatever, but just something for someone else that has nothing to do with our own ambitions.

  3. Great, eye opening post. I never realized that so many of our service people were unemployed when they return home. That's a disgrace! We owe these women and men our freedom.


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