As I've been traveling all around our beautiful state for the past several weeks, I've had the tremendous privilege to highlight an issue that is near and dear to me and the people of West Virginia.
I'm referring to the unemployment crisis among our veterans and what we're doing as a state and a country to match these highly skilled men and women with the good-paying jobs they deserve after fighting for our freedom.
We all owe so much to the servicemembers who raise their right hand and pledge to defend our nation. But for far too many of those veterans, the stress of finding a job can match the stress of combat operations overseas.
According to the latest national figures, there are now more than 750,000 unemployed veterans. Nearly 20 percent of our youngest veterans don't have a job. That is absolutely mind-boggling -- and wrong. The crisis of veterans' unemployment will only continue to grow if we don't do something about it as a country. Secretary Panetta and General Dempsey have both said that 100,000 service members will be leaving active service in the next three years, many without reaching retirement.
Our veterans have served this country well, and it's time for us to return the favor.
Many of you already know about my "I Hire Veterans" project, to encourage business owners and consumers alike to put their money where their mouth is. The "I Hire Veterans" project is basically our new Yellow Ribbon. We all fly the flag and tie a yellow ribbon around the "old oak tree", but if you want to truly help a vet, hire a vet. And do business with vets.
Well, this week I was proud to announce that DuPont has signed on as the first major national corporation to endorse the "I Hire Veterans" project and the Congressional Veterans Jobs Caucus.
It's so appropriate that DuPont would come on board this project so strongly. This is the company that makes Kevlar and Nomex -- which are keeping our brave men and women safer in dangerous war zones around the world.
By joining this effort, DuPont is displaying our logo on site at both their West Virginia locations and on their web site. They'll be hiring between 2,000 and 3,000 employees this year and next year -- and at least 10 percent of those hires will be veterans.
Anyone -- whether that be a private company or a federal agency -- who wants to support our veterans can go to my web site, download the logo, and display it in their business. Visit Manchin.senate.gov, and it's right there.
And I know that the good people of West Virginia will take your business to stores that hire veterans as a sign of your support.
For my part, I make it a priority to hire veterans in my office, as I always have. In fact, just this week a member of my staff joined the National Guard -- so there are now a total of four people who have joined the military on my Senate staff.
I'm not alone in this effort -- there's a growing movement in Congress to bring people together across party lines to solve this problem. It doesn't matter if you're a Democrat, a Republican, an Independent, a liberal or a conservative -- everyone in this country wants to do more to keep our sacred commitment to the men and women who have sacrificed to protect us.
In a town where you can hardly get people to agree on where to go to dinner, that's quite an accomplishment.
Our Congressional Veterans Jobs Caucus is growing so quickly that it now includes 33 U.S. Senators and 19 members of the House of Representatives.
There's a lot of work to be done on this issue, and there are a lot of good public servants and smart businesses that are making real progress to put our veterans back to work making America strong.
The folks at DuPont are a major part of making this right -- and I hope you join this growing movement in whatever way you can.