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Public Statements

Unemployment for Our Veterans

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Mr. JACKSON of Illinois. Mr. Speaker, let me first identify with the two previous speakers and offer my sincerest condolences and heartfelt feelings.

Mr. Speaker, there is no higher sacrifice in our Nation than military service. Our men and women in uniform serve honorably, whether they are stationed at a base here in the United States or serving in a combat zone far from home.

Some join the military out of patriotism. Some join in order to see the world. But for many, those motivations are coupled with another factor: the lack of jobs in our communities. Facing shaky prospects, many young people turn to military service as an honorable, good-paying career.

But too many veterans end up unemployed when they leave the military. After dodging bullets on the battlefield, they find themselves jobless in the marketplace.

In the last few weeks, I've issued a call for unemployed Americans to send me their resumes at resumesforamerica@mail.house.gov so that I may enter their stories into the Record as a way of dramatizing the shameful unemployment problem in this Nation. I've heard from thousands of Americans, including a number of veterans, who are struggling under the weight of unemployment.

Mushi Israel of San Diego, California, is a Navy veteran who served for 20 years. He's an information technology specialist who's been out of work for an entire year. As Mr. Israel said, ``There are a lot of great people who are out of work like myself who believe in the American Dream and society and just want to do an honest day's work for an honest day's pay.''

David Reinke of Burbank, California, was an Army lieutenant who received an honorable discharge in 1980. Although Lieutenant Reinke said in an email to me that his service was ``brief and undistinguished,'' I beg to differ. Anybody who puts on a uniform is distinguished and has the right to a good life right here in America.

David worked for an event staging company for over 20 years. As he put it, ``Unfortunately the economic downturn forced our company to lay off 50 percent of the staff in an attempt to remain economically viable. I was one of those casualties.''

So after serving our country, Lieutenant Reinke became an economic casualty. He lost his job in January of 2010 and has been substitute teaching, where he tries to make ends meet.

Andy Lang, a retired disabled veteran from Snow Hill, North Carolina, who's been out of work since last January, wrote, ``You don't know how scared I am, Congressman. Some days I don't eat. Americans need help and they need it now.''

Ms. Harmony Leonard of Bradford, Pennsylvania, wrote to me. She served in the U.S. Navy from 1975 to 1979 and was honorably discharged. Ms. Leonard has worked as a teacher, a grant coordinator, a development officer, a general manager of a restaurant. She's active in her community and said, ``I did everything I could to be a vital part of my community, and now that I have accumulated experience and education I seem to be invisible and of little use to society.''

She continues, ``My saving grace is that I am a veteran, so I have medical care should I need it. And I am not starving because my partner is working in the natural gas industry. But what about me? What about my self-esteem? What about the stigma attached to not working?''

Mr. Speaker, there's not a Member of this body who has a good answer for Ms. Leonard. How can we look our veterans in the eye, thank them for their service, and then tell them they are fresh out of luck when it comes to finding a job? How can we let them down like that?

I want to hear more stories like this because I know they're out there, and I know there are more veterans who serve our country with honor and dignity and now find themselves unemployed.

So I'm calling on unemployed and underemployed veterans to send me your resume and your story to resumesfromveterans@mail.house.gov. I'll submit them for the Congressional Record so that the unemployment problem among our veterans can be put front and center before our government. Sending me your resume will not get you a job, but it can help force Washington to end the unemployment problem once and for all.

Again, veterans and servicemembers can send their resume to me at resumesfromveterans@mail.house.gov.

Mr. Speaker, service to our Nation is an honorable profession, and we should honor that service by seeing to that every veteran has a job when their service is over. When you risk your life for your country, we should make sure you have a life when you return. No veteran should be left questioning how they will feed their family, wondering about their self worth, or fretting about their financial future.

It's time, Mr. Speaker, we did something to end unemployment once and for all for everybody, especially our veterans.


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