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The Fight of America's Veterans for Economic Security Here at Home

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. JACKSON of Illinois. Mr. Speaker, with all of this talk about the CR and where money is being spent and where taxpayer dollars should be spent, I want to remind Americans that there are 1.4 million Americans on active duty in our U.S. military. Another 718,000 civilian personnel support our men and women in uniform, and 1.1 million are in the Reserves or in the National Guard.

The military is our Nation's largest employer, and it is honorable work. Our fighting men and women are the best and the brightest, the bravest and the most battle-tested. They serve with distinction whether they are on bases here at home or in combat abroad, whether they are in the infantry or in military information technology.

But once our soldiers, airmen, sailors, and marines leave the service, shouldn't they be assured of jobs right here in America? Is that too much to ask of Congress? Is it too much to ask of America? Shouldn't their families know that they will have roofs over their heads, food on their tables, and clothes on their backs? That's the least we can do for our veterans, but for too many veterans, unemployment and economic insecurity is what they are finding in civilian life.

Recently, I asked unemployed veterans to send me their resumes and their stories so that I can submit them for the Congressional Record, to put their struggles front and center before our government. I heard from a number of veterans who sent their resumes to me at Resumes From Veterans @mail. house. gov.

I heard from Charles Diver of Plantation, Florida, who served for 4 years in the U.S. Coast Guard. He wrote that, ``In addition to being unemployed, many of us feel the government has been less than forthcoming about the scope of the problem.''

I couldn't agree more. Mr. Diver has been unemployed since June of 2009. I think we owe him more than that for the service that he's given to our country.

Vincent Torrez of Las Vegas, Nevada, told me, ``It has been a year since I have been discharged from the Army, and it has virtually been impossible for me to find work that matches my skill-set in the civilian market. I believe within the next few years unemployed veterans will be a bigger problem than it is now with the wars coming to a close.''

Mr. Torrez last served in the Army's 1st Airborne Division, 509th Infantry Regiment Opposing Force. We should see to it that veterans like him can find meaningful work when they're back at home.

I heard from Mr. Jay Magan of Taylorsville, Kentucky, who wrote simply and poignantly, ``Out of work for 1 1/2 years. Desperate for a job.'' He signed that short e-mail, ``Respectfully, Jay G. Magan.''

We owe him more respect than unemployment for his 20 years of service in the United States Navy.

I heard from Evelyn Thomas. She is a veteran of the Army National Guard and the Marine Corps and lives in Carlsbad, California. She enlisted in the military on the Montgomery G.I. Bill in order to earn money for college. She then obtained a master's degree in teaching, learning, and leadership. She told me, ``We need to create jobs. We need to provide avenues and opportunities for manufacturing and production companies to exist in this global economy. Now I am at a crossroads, in which I must utilize my activism work to create a job. I must work to support my family. I want to work. Surely, there is a position for a honorably discharged veteran with a master's degree.''

Indeed, there should be.

But then, Mr. Speaker, I received what I think is the most striking e-mail. It was from Tonya Batson, the wife of a 12-year Navy veteran named Billy Batson. She didn't write much, just that Mr. Batson had been out of work since December of 2009, over a year, after his military service ended. But imagine the anguish that Mr. and Mrs. Batson must be feeling. Imagine the uncertainty. I refuse to accept that any military spouse should feel that. No husband or wife, who after supporting their partner through military service, deployment, travel, and battle, should feel like they have to fight another battle right here at home to find a job, to provide for their family, to be financially secure.

Mr. Speaker, we can do better. We can create an economy that employs all of our veterans. We need a jobs program that will put Americans back to work doing productive things for society--teachers aides in classrooms across the country, health clinic workers, home energy technicians, food pantry workers. We can create jobs that pay benefits to workers and the country without the kind of overhead of infrastructure and other projects.

But, Mr. Speaker, we can do even better than creating jobs. We can eliminate unemployment as a factor in American life. In order to do that, I need to hear more stories like those of Mr. Diver, Mr. Torrez, Mr. Magan, Ms. Thomas, and Mr. and Mrs. Batson. I know they are out there, so I'm calling on unemployed veterans to send me their resumes and stories to Resumes From Veterans @mail. house. gov.

As I've said before, sending me your resume will not get you a job, or put you into consideration for a job. But it can help keep the unemployed problem front and center here in Washington.

We need to do something, Mr. Speaker, so that all Americans, veterans and nonveterans alike, have work. We can do so much better.


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