The unemployment rate last year for young Iraq and Afghanistan veterans hit 21.1 percent, according to the United States Labor Department. The number was well above the 16.6 percent jobless rate for non-veterans of the same ages, 18 to 24. Danny Smith has worked has Meridian's Key Field for 36 years. He says this number reflects the obstacle combat veterans face as they make the transition home from war.
"These young folks, right out of college, they go, Uncle Sam trains them to be medics, to be jet engine mechanics, to be supply clerks, they give them this training. They go, they do what our country asks them to do overseas. They see things and experience things that would drive the normal man crazy and then they come back and they have a 21 percent unemployment rate. That's unacceptable," says Smith.
It's a number many vets hope never to fall into. Smith says there are some ways to keep from doing so.
"The training that they did receive, keep the records and everything that you have done. Ok, all of your experiences, so when you do your resumes and you have an opportunity for a job people can look and see what it is that you can do."
By keeping records, veterans have tangible evidence of the training they have received and put to use. And experience is what employers like to see.
"The employers are looking for experienced people and they want to back up that experience with some kind of documentation. You've got to have it. Like an AP license or a 623 in the air force's case, something that shows that what you've been taught, you've used," explains Smith.
Unemployment is not the only problem soldiers returning from war have to face head on. Mental health problems, addictions, and homelessness are more difficulties many of our vets struggle with.
"The help is available. They have access to the Veteran's Administration, the hospital over in Jackson, the clinic here in Meridian, Congressmen offices, Greg Harper's office and things like that to help these folks be put in touch with the folks that can help them, psychiatrists, psychologists and things they need."
When it comes to our vets, Smith has one overall thought.
"I believe We can to better."