Local veterans bounce back with help

April 7, 2009 10:38:12 AM PDT
Among those hit hardest by the recession are America's veterans.

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28-year-old Rachel Mahimer was one of the veterans ABC 7 profiled at a job fair last September. The event was held by the veterans' assistance group called Swords to Plowshares. Mahimer served with the National Guard in Iraq.

60-year-old Robert McLaughlin is a Vietnam vet who had been homeless and out of work for two years.

The youngest veteran we met was 21-year-old Sean McKeen who served in the Army, clearing roadside bombs in Iraq. He was discharged the year before the job fair. He was also homeless at the time.

It has been half a year since the job fair and ABC7 has checked in with the three veterans to see how they are doing.

In February ABC7 met up with Rachel Mahimer at a temp agency. She found work at PG&E after the job fair but was laid off in October. Looking for a job during this recession is difficult, but she still has the grit of a soldier.

"One of the things I learned in the military is, I will never quit and I will never accept defeat," she said.

Her persistence paid off. In late March Mahimer told ABC7 she was back at PG&E in a job program geared for veterans.

One month after the job fair, on Veteran's Day, Robert Mclaughlin was staying at the Menlo Park Veterans emergency shelter. He had found a temporary home, but not a job.

"As soon as you say you're homeless, then people automatically turn a deaf ear and a blind eye," McLaughlin said.

His situation on the streets and lack of work experience were still impeding his job search. In March 2009, McLaughlin found his first job in more than two years. He is now working at Goodwill Industries in San Jose recycling mattresses. Goodwill is even helping him with housing.

"I feel great. I feel wonderful. I have purpose to get up, a purpose in my life," McLaughlin told ABC7.

21-year-old homeless veteran Sean McKeen touched the hearts of ABC7 viewers, many of whom contacted the station to say so after he was shown leaving the job fair looking sad and helpless.

Electrical contractor Todd Duncan and multiple others offered McKeen jobs.

"I just felt, hey this kid, he seems like a nice kid. Let's give him a chance," recalled Duncan, a contractor for GPZ Electric.

Swords to Plowshares helped McKeen with housing and counseling. The Iraq veteran is now being treated at Fort Miley Veterans' Hospital after being diagnosed with PTSD.

Mckeen declined the job offers, deciding instead to go back to school. He is now learning how to repair motorcycles.

"I've like motorcycles since I was a little kid growing up, with my dad racing and what not," he said. "Now I have an opportunity to look forward to a career that I enjoy."

All three war veterans faced different situations but there was one common thread. Each said all they wanted was for someone to give them a chance.

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