By Hilda L. Solis
On Monday, America will celebrate the sacrifices of the men and women who have served their country in the armed forces. I strongly believe that the best way we can honor our veterans is to employ them.
We’ve now lowered our unemployment rate for our veterans to 6.3 percent – well below the national average – and brought down the jobless rate for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans by more than 2 percentage points in the last year alone. We’re making progress, but our work will not be done until all those who have worn the uniform can find civilian jobs worthy of their heroic sacrifice.
Through boot camp and pre-deployment training, the U.S. government spends eight to 12 weeks preparing our outstanding soldiers, sailors and airmen to serve. Now that we’re winding down a decade of war overseas, it’s critical that we spend some time preparing these heroes for the transition back to civilian life.
Over the next five years, the Department of Labor will help more than 1 million transitioning service members find jobs when they come home. We’re helping them with job search strategies and resume writing, and showing them how to market their world-class military training to secure good-paying civilian jobs.
Every day, the Labor Department is working to help employers recruit veterans to fill open positions and to go out into local communities to make the case for hiring veterans. America’s veterans are dependable, hardworking and loyal. Teamwork and commitment to the mission at hand are hard-wired into their DNA. They’ve received world-class training from one of the most demanding organizations in the world and been tested in pressure-cooker situations that few of us can imagine.
Those who fight to protect our freedoms abroad should not have to fight for jobs when they come home. They deserve a chance to use their unique skills to help regrow our economy. So this Veterans Day, I encourage employers to make the commitment to put our veterans to work for them. It’s an act of patriotism that’s good for our country and good for their bottom line.
We’re also focused on doing more to assist our homeless veterans, including many women who have come home with unique combat-related problems. On any given night, tens of thousands of vets go to sleep on our streets and under our bridges.
We’ve made huge progress in reducing the number of homeless veterans by focusing on affordable housing first. Once they have shelter, we’re helping them find clothing, transportation, medical referrals and jobs. No service member should ever have to come home to homelessness, and with good civilian careers waiting for them, they won’t.
Hilda L. Solis is the U.S. secretary of labor.