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Veterans struggle to return to civilian life

This week, the last convoy group of U.S. troops crossed the border from Iraq into Kuwait, marking the end of a nearly 9-year conflict in Iraq.

Hundreds of thousands of military personnel served during those years, and many of these individuals have returned from the Middle East in recent weeks and months.

Problems facing returning combat veterans are well documented; the Wall Street Journal reported that 1 in 5 troops coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.

In addition to the high occurrences of PTSD, many veterans not suffering from the disorder still find it difficult to return to their civilian lives in the United States after months or years in high-stress, dangerous environments.

This is particularly true when it comes time to rejoin the workforce. Many who have chosen not to re-enlist or join the reserves find themselves back on the job market in a tough economic climate. Facing high unemployment statistics, over 50 percent say they feel unprepared to return to a civilian career.

However, according to a Monster.com survey (quoted by the Wall Street Journal in November), “More than 60% of employers feel motivated to hire veterans based on their qualifications and prior work experience and a full 98% of employers that had hired a veteran would hire one again…”

Veterans often have skills that are in high demand in many fields, including attention to detail and self-discipline. It may go without saying, but given their experiences in stressful and dangerous situations, veterans often make good decisions under pressure, work well in groups and have excellent problem-solving skills as well.

So how should we go about supporting our veterans as they gain confidence in new careers?

In an effort to encourage the hiring of former members of the armed forces, the Senate passed legislation offering tax breaks to businesses who employee former military personnel ($5,600 for veterans and up to $9,600 for disabled veterans).

Private corporations are focusing on veterans as well: ”Earlier this year, JPMorgan Chase & Co. and about 15 other U.S. companies—including Cisco Systems Inc., Delta Air Lines Inc. and AT&T Inc.—said they plan to hire 100,000 transitioning service members and military veterans by 2020.”

Smaller businesses are doing their part as well, like Archi’s Acres in Southern California. A small organic farm growing mostly basil and greens, Archi’s Acres was founded in 2007 by Marine Sergeant Colin Archipley and his wife, Karen. In their own words, the couple has “created the program VSAT tooffer our combat veterans meaningful employment opportunities in the high growth industry of sustainable crop production.”