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Work scarce for local veterans

Readjustment to civilian life was difficult, former Air Force soldier says
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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Local veterans and those who support them say more than just the tough economy is making it difficult for former soldiers to find work. Readjusting to civilian life is also a big part of the job search process, two local veterans said. “It’s much harder for them to find work because they are coming back from an environment that is task-and-accomplishment,” said Donna Arz, founder and executive director of the Forgotten Soldier Program in Auburn. “Their whole day is laid out. They have to come back here and readjust. It’s confusion when they come back, how to do it, how to fit in their environment and building trust in their environment.” Pat Ryan, group leader for the Placer County chapter of Operation: MOM, said other obstacles often get in the way of veterans trying to start over. “Our young people are coming home with not only physical but mental issues, and a lot of times they have to be able to deal with those in order to place themselves back into civilian life or into school,” Ryan said. “And sometimes because of those ailments, they are unable to place themselves.” According to Chaplain Terry Morgan, of Gold Country Chaplaincy, Placer County statistics show there are 631 known homeless people in Placer County, and 10 percent of them are veterans. Morgan said statewide 13.3 percent of those who have become veterans since 9/11 are unemployed. Auburn resident David Van Tuyl, 25, is currently working in Auburn, but is searching for another job. Tuyl served in the Air Force for seven years and entered the military when he was 17. He returned to Auburn about a year ago. “I needed a quick fix kind of job, and I went down to a couple restaurants and Old Town Pizza just happened to be hiring,” Tuyl said. “And I kind of meant to only work there a couple months and then ditch the job and move onto something else that would be obviously higher paying. But then I ended up really enjoying it. Problem is I really enjoy it but it doesn’t pay the bills.” Tuyl worked in information technology support in the Air Force and said each assignment he was sent on was different. However, seven years of experience doesn’t seem to matter. “I think that a lot of (veterans) when we are coming back, we are different than other people who have been looking for jobs, who went straight into college after high school rather than the military, or have their degrees or something like that,” Tuyl said. “I don’t have a fancy degree, but I have got the experience. I jump right into work and get hands-on experience. So I kind of feel like I have more experience than somebody who went to college and has a degree, but yet this measly piece of paper that says somebody went to college means more than the experience that we military people went through.” Getting back to life after the military presents issues in itself, Tuyl said. “I have had an extremely hard time just trying to learn how to be a civilian,” he said. “It’s just nothing like being in the military. That is all I have ever known. I was in when I was 17. That was it for me.” Tuyl said the agency that is supposed to help veterans adjust and live life, wasn’t helpful when he was looking for work. “The actual (Department of Veterans Affairs) is a mess,” he said. “They are just disorganized, they are not together, they are just a government agency doing what they do. Honestly, trying to get answers from them is just impossible.” Sacramento resident Justin Johnson, 35, who uses services provided by the Forgotten Soldier Program, said he served in the Army for a little over eight years, in both reserve and active duty. He left the military in 2008 and is looking for work. Johnson said getting back to civilian life was a huge adjustment for him, and he wasn’t in a place to be able to find a job. “For me, because of the divorce I went through and the crazy things life has thrown at me … with the PTSD, I’m always scared I’m going to overreact,” Johnson said. “It’s been a struggle. I’m at a point now where I can finally relax. I don’t care what anyone says, you go to a conflict zone and you are not the same when you leave. And I was (in Baghdad) 17 months.” While trying to readjust, Johnson is also trying to strengthen his relationships with his three children after the death of their mother. Johnson said while he could trust everyone he served with, he is having trouble doing that here. “A lot of people don’t have the integrity people display in the military, so I have a problem with that, working with people I don’t trust.” Johnson said he has thought of starting his own business, or even getting back into the military. Sometimes the work soldiers do doesn’t translate to civilian life, which causes another problem in finding work, Johnson said. “My (military occupation specialty) was a tanker,” he said. “I was on a tank, and where can I do that here? For the guys on the frontline, they are not marketable when they come out.” Employers should take more chances on veterans because they pick up work skills quickly, Johnson said. “So, if you teach them how to do it, they will be your best asset,” he said. Morgan said with a lot of soldiers returning from Afghanistan, the problem of unemployed veterans isn’t going to go away, and the community needs to try to help. “I don’t think it’s a problem that is going to be fixed any time soon,” he said. “I think it’s going to get worse before it gets better. I think just the fact that they have served us, now it’s our turn to turn around and serve them.” Reach Bridget Jones at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com ----------------------------------------------------- Placer County Veteran Stand Down What: A three-day event for veterans including services like shelter, food, haircuts, clothing, picture identification services, health care screening, health care services, eye care, dental care, VA benefits counseling, social security and food stamps benefits counseling, substance abuse counseling, mental health counseling, legal services, employment services, housing services and more. When: 9 a.m. Sept. 27 — 1 p.m. Sept. 29 Where: Roseville Fairgrounds, 800 All America City Blvd., Roseville To preregister: Send your name, address, phone number and e-mail to PO Box 654, Loomis, CA, 95650 or e-mail PlacerCountyStanddown@gmail.com Information: Call (916) 259-1001 ----------------------------------------------------- Agencies to assist veterans • Forgotten Soldier Program, (530) 889-2300, forgottensoldierprogram.org • Operation: MOM Placer County, (530) 908-0751, operationmom.org • Gold Country Chaplaincy, (916) 259-1001, goldcountrychaplaincy.com • Veterans’ Services Placer County, (916) 780-3290, placer.ca.gov/Departments/Veteran.aspx • Army OneSource, myarmyonesource.com • Military OneSource, militaryonesource.com