Looking for work after returning from war

July 13, 2009 9:38:47 PM PDT
For veterans serving overseas, it is one thing to dream of home, but when they get there, the transition back to normal life is not always easy. Some have injuries; others have stress. A good many do not have jobs waiting for them, but there is a Bay Area effort underway to help ease the transition.

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The East Bay Veterans Fair serves somewhat as a landing zone, though not the kind you read about in any military brochure.

When asked if anyone talks about injured female soldiers, Sergeant Jessie Oliff replied, "No, they don't."

Chances are you've never heard about Sgt. Oliff, who carries a photo of herself as an MP in Iraq before, she rescued an injured soldier, then got blown 20 feet through the air by an IED.

"I was going to make the Army my life and then I got blown up and had nothing else to do," said Sgt. Oliff.

So in Concord on Monday, Jessie and other veterans attended a job fair. Many of these people came home to find those promises of work replaced by sideways glances.

When asked if they looked at Eric Rodgers if he was damaged goods, he replied, "Yeah. That's why I was discharged."

Rodgers and Kyle Worden last saw each other in Iraq. Since returning to the states, neither has been able to hold a job. Rodgers has had a dozen operations now, for a gunshot wound. Both suffer from Post Traumatic Stress.

When asked how he would get someone to hire him with PTSD, Rodgers replied, "Put on a collared shirt, I guess. And a tie."

However on Monday, at least, they found a room filled with people who want to help. A few companies are looking for veterans and plenty of colleges offer educations due to an improved GI bill.

"We want their experience. We want their diversity and we want to give back to them the same as they gave to us," said Julie Martin from Sonoma State University.

And while some, at the job fair have given more than others in years past, all gave more than the rest of us who stayed home. Going in, everyone knew that fighting a war would be tough, but who would have thought that coming home would mean battles as well.

"I'll walk again. It's just going to take a while," said Sgt. Oliff.

Link: East Bay Veterans Fair

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