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War vets face tough employment prospects

April 24, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
They fought for their country overseas. Now many veterans are back home and finding it harder than most to find jobs. U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Hilda Solis heard from some of these veterans first-hand in Los Angeles Thursday.Army Sergeant Major Jesse Acosta was blinded by a bomb in Iraq. He suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain disorder.

Marine Corporal Jordan Eash served three deployments in Iraq. It cost him his job.

Union Station, near downtown Los Angeles, was packed with working people. They came to listen as new Labor Secretary Hilda Solis held one of her first public hearings on unemployment among veterans.

Sgt. Maj. Acosta received a standing ovation after he told of fighting the system. As one of the highest-ranking non-commissioned officers in the Army, he knew how to pull strings.

"Little did I know, the system was not geared for us coming home, in my case," said Sgt. Maj. Acosta. "Because of that, I said this is not acceptable."

Sgt. Maj. Acosta admits he's a unique case. But the economic downturn has slammed Iraq and Afghanistan veterans harder than others. One in nine is unemployed.

Cpl. Eash was recalled to active duty in Iraq after coming home, going to school and getting a job, at which he had a three-year contract.

"I was recalled for a year and when I got back home I had about six months left on my contract and the company pretty much said they are not going to hire me back on and they'd do nothing for me," said Cpl. Eash.

Sgt. Maj. Acosta had to fight the system to get training as a blind man to learn computers. He's now fighting for other soldiers.

"If this is what my warriors can do, beneath my grave, well then you know what ? it's time to kick down doors and teach them a lesson," said Sgt. Maj. Acosta.

Labor Secretary Solis promised different treatment for veterans.

"Let me remind you, this is a new day," said Solis. "It's not even 100 days yet, for all you present."

They're welcomed back as heroes, but all too often the veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq are not welcomed back as employees. Meetings like these could help change that.


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