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Helping Mississippi Vets Transition from the Battlefield to the Civilian Workforce

By Lawayne Childrey | Published 15 Feb 2013 05:27pm | comments

As the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars continue to wind down hundreds of Mississippi military men and women are hoping to return home to their old jobs. MPB's Lawayne Childrey reports how business and community leaders hope to make their transitions smooth.

When Captain John Branning, an Ordained Elder in the United Methodist Church was deployed to Iraq 5 years ago. His main concern was the welfare of his wife and family. But after just days on duty the Crystal Springs minister says he was comforted by the decisions of his congregation.

"They hired an interim , they allowed my family to remain in the parsonage where we were at. The supplement my salary difference between the military and the church. And my wife was  expecting our third child while I was deployed and they actually took her to the hospital for me and help her with the delivery and actually hooked up a Skype so I could be a part of that while I was in Iraq.

While Brannings church was not obligated to support his  family because of guidelines surrounding the separation of church and state other employers are obligated under the, “The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act”.  The Act  protects the right to reemployment for service members.  Major General Augustus Collins, Commander of the Mississippi Army and National Guard says one of his priorities is to assure that all returning soldiers find viable employment.

"They're a lot of employers in the state who would like to hire veterans. So we hook the employer and the veteran up together. We look to see what type of skills the employer is looking for and we've got those types of skills already identified in our workforce. And then we arrange it where they can go out and have interviews or get resumes or fill out applications to find those jobs."

But  Sergeant Mario Taylor with the Delta Company 2nd 198 tactical unit says many of his fellow soldiers are having problems adjusting to their new civilian roles.

"Most of the guys that have found a job soon as they came back from Iraq. And then  as soon as they are like a month in the job they leave. So it gives military people a bad name because they are not working. I think with more training they'll understand more cause some of the guys that are doing it, they are young.  It makes it hard for a whole lot of military people out there who are trying to find jobs."

Since January studies show that the unemployment rate for post 9/11 veterans has climbed to 11.7 percent while the national employment rate is 7.9%.  Lawayne Childrey MPB News. 

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