For Some Veterans, Struggles Only Begin After Finding Employment

During my last few months in the military I had the chance to speak with the DCG of 1st CAV and he asked me an incredibly thought-provoking question: As a leader in the Army, what keeps you up at night? My answer to that question, today, is very different than it was then.

Today, without hesitation, I worry about not only the struggle that Veterans across this country face trying to find meaningful employment, but the struggle some Veterans face DURING that employment.

I recently read an article on LinkedIn by Garrett Wilkerson that I cannot recommend highly enough. Throughout the article Garrett details some of the struggles he faces being one of those “weird Veterans” in his workplace. He details how his coworkers are constantly on edge; they’re afraid that he may have an “episode” in the office. While some of his coworkers are blatantly discriminating against him, others seem to think they are doing the right thing. They are “accommodating” his PTSD that they simply assumed he has because they saw a war movie, once.

While reading it, I tried to rationalize and defend his coworkers. “They simply don’t understand the military culture,” I told myself. “This is an isolated case.”

But then I flashback to my own previous interactions at prior employers before my current company. On day one at a company I had a girl ask me, “So, do you like, have that PTSD thing?” I was also asked how many people I have killed with my bare hands. Another person asked me if I killed any civilians while deployed and before I could answer back that I don’t even have a CAB from my deployment, they asked me if I felt guilty for all the people killed by the collateral damage I undoubtedly caused.

Further, during one interview I was actually asked if I could handle being at a client’s office for multiple hours without having to step outside because there might be a large group of people in one building and the hiring manager “had heard that bothers Veterans.”

I don’t write this at midnight on a Thursday because I want sympathy, much like Garrett didn’t write his post because he wanted people to feel sorry for him. I write this because there is a struggle that many Veterans face in the civilian workforce. Yes, the narrative on Veteran hiring is changing because of the numerous Veterans putting in long hours showing exactly what we can bring to the table in Corporate America. With that being said, numerous Veterans will continue to struggle with how we are interpreted inside the walls of workplaces.

I am thankful each and every day that I work for a company that not only has a military recruiting team, but also has a very, very robust network of Veteran Support Groups within our organization.

If your company does not have a Veteran Employee Network in place, I beg you to reach out to those that do and then install one within your organization. These networks not only serve as a way to assist new Veterans to the company, they do tremendous work at educating the non-Veteran population in the organization on anything and everything Veteran-related. You would be surprised at the success these groups have at education, fundraising, mentorship and comradery within your company.

 I urge you to read Garrett’s story. His post is real, it’s powerful, and these days stories like his are what keep me up at night.

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