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Editorial: Want to honor veterans? Help them find good jobs

Veterans hunt for jobs Illinois Department Employment Security’s job fair OrlPark Civic Center last November.  |  Matt Marton~Sun-Times

Veterans hunt for jobs at the Illinois Department of Employment Security’s job fair at the Orland Park Civic Center last November. | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: August 6, 2012 11:55AM

Waving a flag and putting out bunting in red, white and blue is a fine way to celebrate a week highlighted by Wednesday’s celebration of the Fourth of July.

But you can do more. Help a military veteran find a job.

In May, the unemployment rate was 23.5 percent for veterans 18 to 24 — 10 percent higher than for civilians of the same age. The rate for all veterans who have served in the last decade was 12.7 percent in May, compared with an overall national rate of 8.7 percent, according the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

You’d think a nation’s gratitude for those who have served in two long wars would make it easy for veterans to find jobs. But it’s not that simple.

A recent study by the Center for a New American Security concluded the biggest problem was matching skills learned in the military with civilian jobs. Employers, many of whom may not have served in the armed forces, don’t always see the connection.

Also, job counselors say, veterans can be put at a disadvantage by concerns over the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder — a worry that experts say is simply unwarranted.

In addition, while many vets served their country, their contemporaries were gaining college degrees or job experience.

A July 12 job fair in Chicago jobs with more than 60 companies, government agencies and veterans groups is part of the “100,000 Jobs Mission,” which has the laudable goal of hiring at least 100,000 veterans by 2020. (The fair is from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s UIC Forum, 725 W. Roosevelt Rd.) Since the program began last year, more than 12,000 veterans have been hired.

But job fairs can’t do it by themselves. Everyone who can needs to pitch in.

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