Army Capt. Lonnie Moore lost his right leg and — he thought — his career last April when his convoy was ambushed on the road...
Army Capt. Lonnie Moore lost his right leg and — he thought — his career last April when his convoy was ambushed on the road to Ramadi, in central Iraq. The injury led to some dark days in Walter Reed Army Medical Center as Moore, 29, began his recuperation and contemplated life outside the military.
Within months, however, he had received job offers from a munitions company, an information-technology firm and the Department of Veterans Affairs. And that’s without sending out a résumé.
“People tend to seek us out,” Moore said of veterans, particularly those who have been injured. “They know we’ll be an asset to their companies and that we’re not going to let our injuries stand in the way. … Everybody I’ve known that’s gotten out, they’re not having a hard time finding jobs.”
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Through broad initiatives and individual requests, corporations have been actively recruiting veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, turning military hospitals like Walter Reed into de facto hiring centers.
Job offers aren’t being handed out carte blanche, and companies say talent and fit are still the priorities.
But executives seeking out wounded soldiers say many of the skills acquired in the military are applicable in the private sector — particularly within companies that serve the government. A soldier who has led a platoon in war is probably capable of leading a unit at a private company, executives say.
With government contracting in a boom, knowledge soldiers and their security clearances are also highly valued.
“They’ve got to be able to talk the language. And you can’t teach a person that language, it’s a language you can only learn by being part of that culture,” said Paul Evancoe, director of military operations at FNH USA, a McLean, Va., weapons manufacturer with about 350 employees in the United States. The company is among those interested in hiring Moore.
The quest to seek an injured vet was both company-driven and personal, said Evancoe, who received a Purple Heart after being shot in Vietnam. Many FNH employees are veterans, so the company’s atmosphere and values largely mirror those of the military, he added.
“If you take a guy and immerse him back into that culture … it’s going to be very positive. It’s going to help the healing,” Evancoe said. “It’s not like I can hire every single guy, but when I have a job, I’m going to search out a veteran.”
The Labor Department does not have statistics on job-placement rates of veterans disabled in Afghanistan or Iraq. However, in 2003, the most-recent statistics available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, veterans had an unemployment rate of 4.5 percent, compared with 5.9 percent for nonveterans.
The same study found that 9 percent of veterans suffered from a service-related disability, and their unemployment rate was comparable to that of their noninjured peers.
Jeannie Lehowicz, a vocational counselor stationed at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, said she has a steady stream of inquiries from executives and recruiters — sometimes dozens a week, and typically more than the 50 to 75 soldiers she is working with at any given time.
One day the call might be from a giant defense contractor from Bethesda, Md., and the next a small biomedical firm from Montana, she said.
“It’s overwhelming. You want to respond and say, ‘Oh, here’s this guy I’ve got for you,’ but that’s not always the case,” Lehowicz said.
More than 11,190 service members have been wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to Pentagon statistics. Some have months of rehabilitation left before they’ll be released from the hospital, Lehowicz said, and others plan to go back to school. Many are adamant that they will stay in the military, she added.
But even if they choose another route, the prospect of having opportunities can be an important buoy for wounded soldiers, Lehowicz and others say.
Joe Davis, spokesman for the Veterans of Foreign Wars, said outreach efforts among government contractors is partly driven by executives with military backgrounds. There is a de facto alumni network, he said, and a collective memory of the way disabled veterans were treated after previous conflicts, particularly Vietnam.
“Who runs the country now? It’s the Vietnam era, and they vowed never again, and so you got all the corporations, every nonprofit, all the associations and lobby arms doing everything they can” for this generation of soldiers, Davis said.