Surge of vets come home, enter tough job market


Last year, the poverty rate for veterans ages 18 to 34 reached 12.5 percent -- more than double the rate 10 years ago. That's according to a report last month from Congress' Joint Economic Committee. Local groups are also concerned about the mental health of these veterans.

Many of the battle scars that these returning troops have are invisible. The problems they'll have reentering society are already evident in those that returned from Iraq years ago. One young man we spoke with is just starting to get the help he now realizes he needs.

Joshua Hennigin came back from combat in Iraq six years ago. A part of him is still there.

"Two weeks ago I heard a motorcycle up in the hills and it sounded just like a call to prayer at a mosque. I had cold sweats and I was at work, so I had to stop working," said Hennigin.

He was with the National Guard and spent three years in the Middle East. Like Hennigin, many returning soldiers and Marines will find things at home are different.

"I don't know if my family is different, but I am. I know that. It's hard to relate to people sometimes," said Hennigin.

More than 30,000 troops that fought in Iraq are now making their way back home to California. They'll need jobs, health care and many will need counseling. That counseling comes with a price for many vets.

"I'm scared that if I let people know what I've done or seen, that they'll think of me different," said Hennigin.

For the first time in six years Hennigin came to the vet's center in Santa Rosa on Monday. Here other vets, some combat Vietnam veterans, have volunteered to point returning vets to medical care, counseling and jobs. Those are services they know these returning troops will need. The help is available to anyone who served in the military.

"We're going to have a lot of people falling through the cracks," said Claudio Calvo.

Calvo with the vets center and the Veterans Administration are preparing for the surge in returning vets. They want to make sure every one of them has access to programs, especially to those that will help them transition into hard to get civilian jobs.

"Before we get them to the employer they're ready, they're job ready," said Calvo.

Hennigin says he gets a lot of the support he needs from his wife. He's had five jobs in the past six years. His appearance today at the center is a huge step in his finally coming home.

"I think I'm just tired of keeping it all inside," said Hennigin.

Combat veterans say that those troops who come home will need a lot of support from friends and family, especially if they're going to successfully transition back to civilian life.

Copyright © 2024 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.