Veterans Struggle To Find Jobs, Peace Of Mind

As part of our ongoing series Home Front, host Rachel Martin speaks with Spc. Brian Cannava of the National Guard's 182nd Infantry Regiment. He, along with many other veterans, has been having a hard time finding work.

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Finding lasting employment and the peace of mind that goes with it has proved a challenge for many of the men and women who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan in recent years. It's one of the issues we've been covering in our series Home Front.

STAFF SERGEANT JASON COPP: My name is Staff Sergeant Jason Copp.

CORPORAL TERRY NARCIS: I am Corporal Terry Narcis(ph).

CAPTAIN MICHAEL CURRY: I am Captain Michael Curry.

PFC MCCITRICH: PFC McCitrich(ph).

STAFF SERGEANT JEFF BARLOW: Staff Sergeant Jeff Barlow.

MARTIN: Throughout the year, we've been spending time with the men of the National Guard's 182nd Infantry Regiment as they make the transition from soldiers to civilians. Today, to commemorate Veterans Day, I'd like to reintroduce you one of these soldiers.

SPECIALIST BRIAN CANNAVA: My name is Specialist Brian Cannava.

MARTIN: You remember hearing that WEEKEND EDITION followed Specialist Cannava to a job interview back in June of this year.

CANNAVA: Couldn't find my brown belt that went with my shoes, so substituting - and my neck got fatter. So, these are the kind of things I realized this morning.

MARTIN: Brian Cannava is still unemployed - and he's not alone. The unemployment rate for veterans who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan currently stands at 10 percent. Despite all the programs out there designed to find work for vets, Brian Cannava's search has been frustrating. If you had to count, do you have any idea how many jobs you have applied for since you got back?

CANNAVA: Hundreds.

MARTIN: Really?

CANNAVA: Yes.

MARTIN: Have you had a hard time explaining on a resume or in interviews to potential employers why you're qualified, how your skills from the military translate into a civilian job?

CANNAVA: I guess I really haven't tried explaining it. I mean, it's just like a summary. But to explain a deployment to somebody that hasn't deployed is like not going to be something that I would put on paper. Nobody's going to read, like, a 30-page resume, so.

(LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: Have you thought about how this really long job search has affected your relationships? Or has it affected your relationships with your family or friends at all?

CANNAVA: Yeah. Like, I don't go out a lot. Like, people, like, try to get me to go out. So, like, I don't. I don't necessarily know that, like, the job search has anything to do with it. I just haven't really been, like, interested in doing much, I guess, since I got home.

MARTIN: Have you thought about why that is?

CANNAVA: No. I mean, maybe I thought about it but I don't know why.

MARTIN: Is there part of you that misses being deployed?

CANNAVA: Yeah, definitely.

MARTIN: Why?

CANNAVA: I guess it's just like I have, like, a schedule, like, knew what was expected of me. I did it, its, like, purpose, I guess. Then I was, like, proud of what I was doing rather than just not doing anything.

MARTIN: Has it been hard to communicate that to friends and family, what you did over there?

CANNAVA: I just don't communicate it.

MARTIN: Would you like someone to ask questions? Do people ask questions? Do people say, Brian, tell me what it was like?

CANNAVA: I mean, generally, like, people are not that interested. I mean, like, the question you get is, like, kids questions. Like, did you kill anyone, and, like, stuff like that. So, like, stuff you're not really, like, interested in talking about. And, I mean, realistically, unless, like, you were there, like, you wouldn't understand anyway. So, like, I think most of the guys I was with and probably most veterans in general don't, like, try explaining in a lot of detail. And, like, I don't think you could understand, so....

MARTIN: Do you think you would go back?

CANNAVA: I have given it a lot of consideration. If I were to go back, I don't think I would go back unless I was currently full-time employed and I knew I could come back to that job, because I don't want to waste - well, I shouldn't say waste - I don't want to spend another year away or longer to come back to the same situation.

MARTIN: That's Specialist Brian Cannava. You can hear more from our Home Front series on our website, npr.org, and on Facebook@NPR Home Front.

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