WBEZ | Ryan Gallucci http://www.wbez.org/tags/ryan-gallucci Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Discrimination against our country's heroes http://www.wbez.org/series/front-center/discrimination-against-our-countrys-heroes-103510 <p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="http://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F65375087&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=false&amp;color=ff7700" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>Read part one of Josh&#39;s story, <strong><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/front-center/soldiers-struggle-economic-ladder-103481">here</a></strong>.</p><p>On one of the days I visited him, Josh Jones shared with me a video that one of his fellow Army buddies taped while they were serving in Iraq.</p><p>In the video, big orange fireballs light up the night sky. Their unit had just come under mortar fire from insurgents.</p><p>That seems like a lifetime ago for 25-year-old Josh. He&rsquo;s been home for two years and since then has been living a life with much less excitement than what he&rsquo;s used to.</p><p>After serving in Iraq, Josh felt like he had earned a decent job. When he returned home, he thought he&#39;d work as a cop or a prison guard. Instead, he wound up unemployed for a year.</p><p><strong>A broken promise</strong></p><p>You hear this kind of frustration a lot from young veterans who served in the wars that followed 9/11. They have a sense that some kind of promise to service members has been broken. Many young veterans who served in Afghanistan and Iraq are struggling.&nbsp; Unemployment for young vets hovers near 30 percent and tens of thousands of former soldiers are homeless.&nbsp;</p><p>After spending years living a serviceman&rsquo;s life of strict rules, regulations and customs, Josh felt unstable.</p><p>&ldquo;I didn&#39;t know what the hell I was going to do. I was going to head home to my family obviously, but I didn&#39;t know where I wanted to go. I mean, I didn&#39;t want to take a step back in my opinion and work at some, be some cashier at a grocery store or a gas station,&rdquo; Josh said.</p><p>Derek Osgood is a friend of Josh&#39;s, a 23 year old Marine who served in Afghanistan and Iraq.</p><p>He says he feels like his service isn&rsquo;t appreciated.</p><p>&ldquo;I hate to say it, but when it comes to getting out, as soon as the military knows you&#39;re not going to re-enlist and you&#39;re leaving, it&#39;s like you&#39;re dead to them -- you know, you&#39;re just another body,&rdquo; Derek said.</p><p>Derek and Josh are part of a veterans club -- a kind of military support group on the campus of Paul Smiths College, a school in upstate New York.</p><p>Josh says group members have a sense of camaraderie because in this environment, where most students are about five years younger than all of the veterans, there&rsquo;s always someone who knows what it means to be a soldier.</p><p>At a meeting in the cafeteria, Derek says he&#39;s proud of his war service and thinks he learned important lessons from the Marines about discipline and hard work.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/joshcafe.jpg" style="height: 200px; width: 300px; float: right; margin: 3px;" title="Josh Jones (second from right) talks schoolwork with Tyler Twitchel, Jesse Smith and Josh's girlfriend Danielle Rageotte at lunchtime in the cafetaria. Photo: Mark Kurtz" />But when it comes to actual training that might give him an advantage in the civilian job market, he shakes his head.</div><p>&ldquo;I picked infantry and when it came to job skills, that pretty much gave me little or none in the way of job experiences that I would benefit from,&rdquo; Derek said.</p><p>Josh too is skeptical about the opportunities for veterans to climb the economic ladder.</p><p>&ldquo;I think it&#39;s there, but it&#39;s more of a stepladder now. It has a ceiling to it. You can only go so high. Unless you have a strong network of people in power, it&#39;s a stepladder, not a ladder,&rdquo; Josh said.</p><p>This kind of pessimism is common among vet. Studies show that even many service-members who come home with marketable skills are struggling to find good jobs.</p><p>Sometimes it&#39;s difficult to match military experience with civilian job descriptions. Sometimes it&#39;s just the sour economy.</p><p>But there&#39;s also a concern among military support groups that wartime veterans face an actual stigma.</p><p><strong>Facing discrimination</strong></p><p>Twenty-five-year-old Justin Jankuv is part of the campus military club. He&rsquo;s a former Army soldier who fought in Iraq.</p><p>He says there&rsquo;s a stereotype against veterans.</p><p>&ldquo;Oh, this guys is from Iraq or this guy is a veteran. So, he&#39;s got post traumatic stress disorder or he&#39;s a loony...because there&#39;s a lot of people out there who get that impression of us,&rdquo; Justin said.</p><p>Derek agrees. He says employers are afraid of taking a risk by hiring a veteran.</p><p>&ldquo;It&#39;s sort of like they put a smile on their face and say &lsquo;Yeah, you&#39;re a veteran, good on you, good on you we&#39;ll call you back.&rsquo; And in the back of their head, they&#39;re thinking, There&#39;s no way.&nbsp; No way I&#39;m going to hire him,&rdquo; Derek said.</p><p>He adds that he&rsquo;d rather have someone tell him they don&rsquo;t hire veterans because it otherwise makes him question his performance in the interview.</p><p>A study released in June of this year found that many of these impressions among soldiers are accurate.</p><p>Employers told researchers with the Center for A New American Security that one top reason they don&#39;t hire veterans is a negative stereotype -- a fear that they might be &quot;damaged&quot; or might go on &quot;rampages.&quot;</p><p>Ryan Gallucci, with the Veterans of Foreign Wars, a soldier advocacy group, says many civilian employers are simply ignorant about what goes on in war-time.<br /><br />He says since only one percent of Americans have served in the current conflicts, it&rsquo;s normal to have a cultural misunderstanding.</p><p>Gallucci did a tour in Iraq in 2003. He says important steps have been taken to help younger veteran reintegrate, including the 9/11 GI Bill and the Hire a Hero Act.</p><p>Without that aid, none of the servicemen interviewed for this story could have afforded college.</p><p><strong>Finding solutions</strong></p><p>Some companies have also set quotas for hiring veterans and created buddy programs that partner older service-members with young people just back from war.</p><p>A a new billion-dollar veterans jobs bill would have put 20,000 vets to work as cops and firefighters. But it was defeated by Republicans in September.</p><p>And Galluci says a lot more needs to be done by the government and by private firms to prove that military service is still a path to the middle class.</p><p>&ldquo;So what we really are trying to do now is maintain the military&#39;s reputation as a quality force, that it prepares service members for good careers when they leave,&rdquo;Galluci said.</p><p>He says that this type of preparation allows for economic mobility.</p><p>Josh Jones says he&#39;s grateful to be back in school, to have this second chance. Many of his veteran friends are still unemployed, working dead end jobs, or back living with their parents.&nbsp;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/josh1.jpg" style="float: left; height: 166px; width: 250px; " title="Josh hopes college will prepare him to enter the workforce." /></p><p>But Josh says he&#39;s anxious about the day when he&#39;ll have to hit the streets again, afraid that long after the war is over, companies will see him too as damaged goods.</p><p>As the war in Afghanistan winds down, tens of thousands more Americans will be making this transition to civilian life.</p><p>Whether or not they succeed could how define the next generation sees military service:&nbsp;As an economic opportunity or one more dream that has turned into a dead end. &nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 31 Oct 2012 08:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/front-center/discrimination-against-our-countrys-heroes-103510