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We're not certain why this would be, but a quarter million veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan are out of work. Their unemployment rate is a little higher than the general population. On this Veteran's Day, the Obama administration is hailing the Senate's approval yesterday of a series of tax credits for companies that hire vets. The move comes at a time when many Americans have little connection to people in uniform. NPR's Scott Horsley reports.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: The tax credits for hiring veterans are the first sliver of President Obama's $447 billion jobs package to actually win bipartisan approval in the Senate. Mr. Obama says service members who've fought for their country shouldn't have to fight for jobs when they come home.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: If you can oversee millions of dollars of assets in Iraq, you can help a business balance its books here at home.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

HORSLEY: The president might be talking about Maria Canales. The former Army staff sergeant was a finance management specialist in Iraq, where she served as a kind of war zone ATM for the troops.

MARIA CANALES: We would go on missions to bring soldiers money in cash and also provide them services. If they wanted to send extra money home, we would have check-cashing services there as well.

HORSLEY: After Canales left the Army in 2007, she struggled for years to find permanent work, finally landing a job with an insurance company just a few weeks ago. Nearly one out of eight veterans who've left the service in the last decade are unemployed - a higher jobless rate than the national average. Canales says that with tens of thousands of additional troops set to come home to a tough job market, more help is needed.

CANALES: Some guys and gals have been deployed well over four or five times. That kind of price is very high. And the least we could do is give them peace of mind when they come home.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: When I say I am, I want you to say Army strong. I am.

CROWD: Army strong.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: I am.

CROWD: Army strong.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: I am.

CROWD: Army strong.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Unintelligible)

HORSLEY: Last month, more than 2,000 soldiers and airmen packed a military hangar in Southern Virginia to greet President Obama. Surveys by the Pew Research Center found veterans generally more critical of their commander-in-chief than is the general public is, but Mr. Obama scores higher with recent veterans, the troops he calls the 9/11 generation.

OBAMA: Already your generation has earned a special place in America's history. For that you've got a grateful nation.

HORSLEY: The nation's been quick to tell veterans how grateful it is. Nine out of 10 veterans who served in Iraq or Afghanistan told Pew researchers someone has thanked them for their service. At the same time, 84 percent say the public doesn't understand the problems that military families face. Longtime war correspondent Tom Ricks worries about the widening gap between the one percent of Americans who now fight our wars and the 99 percent who are increasingly detached from military service.

TOM RICKS: I'm always struck when I'm in that part of America where nobody knows anybody in the military and they're still sort of puzzled about why people do this and what it means. Then there's other parts of the country, usually around bases, where everybody knows somebody, and it simply is a different America.

HORSLEY: Ricks, who's now with the Center for a New American Security, recalls talking with a kindergarten teacher just outside Fort Campbell, Kentucky, the home of the 101st Airborne Division and some key special forces.

RICKS: She said one day a kid came running in off the playground and said two Black Hawks just collided over Mosul. She said, do you know what that means to be a kindergartener and know what a Black Hawk is, to know what Mosul is, and to know the implication is, that some of our parents might be dead?

HORSLEY: First Lady Michelle Obama has tried to bridge the gap between civilians and the military with her Joining Forces campaign. She reassured soldiers and airmen at that Virginia military base last month that the other 99 percent of Americans have not forgotten them.

MICHELLE OBAMA: I know sometimes it feels like a struggle, like sometimes we don't know as a nation what you sacrifice, what your families sacrifice, but know that people are stepping up.

HORSLEY: Yesterday, Mrs. Obama announced Thursday new commitments from the private sector to hire 100,000 veterans and military spouses over the next couple of years. She says everyone can do something to honor the men and women who serve, especially when so many owe so much to so few. Scott Horsley, NPR News, the White House.

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