Vets Face Uphill Battle in Return to Work Force Veterans bearing physical and emotional scars from Iraq and Afghanistan are returning home and back to work. However, too often both they, and their employers, aren't ready.
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Vets Face Uphill Battle in Return to Work Force

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Vets Face Uphill Battle in Return to Work Force

Vets Face Uphill Battle in Return to Work Force

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This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. Watching American welcome home its newest combat veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan often looks uncomplicated; tearful families with outstretched arms, waving flags and banners of pride and relief, but the journey back to civilian life can be rocky. Today, we're going to focus on going back to work. Tens of thousands of men and woman return with physical and emotional injuries as members of the Guard and Reserve, many are citizen soldiers, entitled to get their old jobs back after a year or more away, which their employers may not be prepared for.

The youngest vets may never have held jobs at all, and instead of that leg up featured in many military recruitment ads on television, they may find prospective employers worried about the possibility of post-traumatic stress problems. Later on in the program: Alpine skiing, surly skaters and falling ice-dancers. We'll check in with the Winter Olympics in Turin, but first, from war to work, if you're back from Iraq or Afghanistan and back in civvies, give us a call, whether you're back in your old job, in a new one or out looking. We also want to hear from employers trying to prepare for returning veterans. Our number is800-989-8255, that's 800-989-TALK. The email address is

We begin with Robert Hartwig. He's the Chief Economist at the Insurance Information Institute. He joins us by phone now from Puerto Rico, where he's on vacation. Nice to have you on the program, and thanks so much for taking a break from your vacation to speak with us today.

Mr. ROBERT HARTWIG (Chief Economist with the Insurance Information Institute): Glad to be here, Neal.

CONAN: I know you wrote report, detailing the issues employers are facing as veterans come home from their tours. Do you think employers are ready?

Mr. HARTWIG: Well, Neal, we're looking at a generation of employers that, quite frankly, is completely inexperienced when it comes to the issue of welcoming the returning veteran back to the workplace. When we think about employers in the '40s, with World War II in the '50s, with Korea and even the '60s and '70s with respect to Vietnam, we basically had almost a nearly continuous chain of employers, who understood this issue, but we've not had this number of returning veterans anytime within the last 30 years. It's really a new issue for most employers.

CONAN: And, obviously, just of the face of it, holding somebody's job open for them for a year or more - a lot of companies can't deal with that.

Mr. HARTWIG: Well, many companies cannot, and the focus of my study actually was not so much whether the jobs has been left open, but the special challenges that the employer might face in some of these cases. As we know, tens of thousands of individuals go to Iraq or Afghanistan, and, in fact, will be injured. Now, the vast majority of them will return to the workplace without any issue whatsoever, and that is the pattern established by veterans of past conflicts, but again, this generation of employers is not accustomed to even looking for issues upon return and may not be aware of the legal requirements they have to accommodate the veterans once they get back to the workplace.

CONAN: And, obviously, if somebody is a member of the National Guard, for example, they have a right to that job.

Mr. HARTWIG: Well, absolutely; I mean, one distinguishing feature of the current conflict is, whereas in Word War II and other conflicts, many of the troops serving were drafted or joined and were, in effect, career soldiers at that point. We've got 30 percent of the troops serving now in Iraq with troop levels somewhere around 140,000 today are National Guard or Reservists. They are citizen soldiers. They are people who have been plucked from their jobs and plucked from their families in every corner of America, and they want to rejoin that workforce as quickly as possible.

CONAN: And in terms of employers, what are you finding?

Mr. HARTWIG: Well, anecdotally, I found that most employers haven't really thought about this issue, even large employers, who have maybe hundreds, and, in some cases, even thousands of their workers, who have or are currently serving abroad, and I think that is something they need to consider. Let me give you some examples.

For instance, what is to happen if a worker is injured on the job and aggravates an injury originally sustained during the course of their military employment? Will their worker's compensation program cover that or not? Does the employer know the answer to that question? Do they know that they are not allowed to discriminate in any way against someone applying for employment, who may have been injured during the course of their military service? Do they know that they have to make every reasonable accommodation for those individuals when they do return to the workforce or, theoretically, they face sanctions from the government or, potentially even, could be on the wrong end of a private lawsuit.

No employer wants that to happen, but the bottom line here is not to try to just do what you have to, to avoid a lawsuit. Really, this is respect, and this is what our countrymen, who've really, in some cases, left their body parts on the fields. This is a sort of respect that they need and deserve.

CONAN: There's also one more calculation that employers have to make. After a little bit, that same employee may be returning to Iraq.

Mr. HARTWIG: Well, that's true too. Many of the citizen soldiers, the Reservists and the Guards, and even those who've left active duty may, in fact, also be called back at some point. There are plans to have at least 100,000 plus troops in Iraq through 2009. Many of those who've served have already done two tours, the summer being called back for a third after being home for six months or a year.

CONAN: Let's get some listeners involved in this conversation. Our number is 800-989-8255. The email address is, and we'll begin with Bill. Bill's calling us from Cincinnati.

BILL (Caller): Hello.

CONAN: Hi, Bill. You're on the air. Go ahead, please.

BILL: Hi, how you doing? Basically, I'm just calling to kind of just say that I am a veteran from the Iraq war. Been out for close to two years now, and I must admit, it has been very difficult to maintain a job, you know? And nothing really - basically, nothing to do with, really, the fact that I felt like I was a loose cannon, but it was very hard to kind of get along with people that really, I felt, didn't really understand me, I guess; I mean, I don't know how much sense I'm making right now.

CONAN: Well, Bill, I was just curious about the way you phrased it. In other words, from what I'm getting, you were able to find work, but unable to sustain it.

BILL: Absolutely, absolutely; I mean, a lot of employers were very; I mean, very, I guess, excited about how having a veteran, especially, you know, I guess were admired to a degree, but at the same time, you know, myself; I just - I was kind of used to the structure and the discipline of military life and the unit that I came from, and it was just very difficult, you know, to take things, I guess, that really normally wouldn't bother normal people. It kind of made me just real - I don't know. I can't even really explain it, but -

CONAN: I wondered, had you tried to seek any help for this from the VA?

BILL: I did go to the VA, and I did speak with somebody, who assisted me. He was a friendly guy and asked me a bunch of questions about what I'd seen, this and that, and, you know, I really - the kind of person I am, I'm not really open to sitting there talking to somebody about my feelings, I guess; you know, and it was kind of awkward, but they did; they labeled it; you know, I probably had PTSD, whatnot.

CONAN: Post-traumatic stress disorder, yeah.

BILL: Myself, here I am, two years nearly out, and in a few months, I'll be going back in; I mean, I really - I basically kind of told myself that I really belong back in the service, you know?

CONAN: Well, Bill, thanks very much for the call, and good luck to you.

BILL: All right. Thank you.

CONAN: Okay appreciate it. And Bob Hartwig, I know you've been focusing on employers but Bill's suggested there are a lot of veterans who are maybe not ready to go immediately back to work either.

Mr. HARTWIG: Oh absolutely that's the case. Again I focused on you know those who were plucked from the workplaces but we're facing even larger numbers of regular military who are going to be coming back over time.

And again this is something that had happened throughout history. In the past 60 years or so in our country this is generally gone smoothly, but there are going to be exceptions.

And we've just heard a call from Bill, Bill seems to very much enjoy the structure of the military.

CONAN: Hmm mm.

HARTWIG: And I think that it derives some work satisfaction from that. I don't think that's necessarily unusual. It sounds like he's decided to go back. But there are issues with readjustment.

And the VA does offer a service, a readjustment and counseling service that any one who's trying to return to civilian life can avail themselves of it no cost to themselves.

CONAN: And we've been talking about some people who in terms of employers who might not be ready. Have you looked at some who are and how do they do it?

HARTWIG: Well I think that most employers around the country have really had, you know maybe only one employee. Your typical employer is a small employer in this country. Businesses that employ 50 people or less are those that are typical.

And when somebody returns, I think generally speaking they welcome them back with open arms whatever job is available. And so we don't really have an issue.

I think when we get to some larger employers who have operations across the U.S. The human resources department is not generally aware of the total number that are abroad at any given time, fulfilling their military requirements. And aren't sure what they're doing while they're over there. Aren't exactly sure when they're going to come back.

So and some sense they don't really have any coordinated effort on this issue. Is there is some training that they need for instance when they come back, if they've been operating you know aircraft or heavy equipment. These sorts of things where their required to update their licenses, they do handle that.

But in terms of being on the ready to look for signs of PTSD, or ask them if they've suffered any particular injuries during the course of their military service and what can they do to accommodate them. I have not seen many examples of that quite frankly.

CONAN: And also trying to explain to the returning vet that they're not trying to do this to get them out of something, they do this to try to help them.

HARTWIG: One problem is that many vets in fact will conceal if they happen to have sustained an injury. Particularly if it might be emotional type trauma for fear of discrimination. For fear that people will view them as weak in some kind of a way.

When a reality I think that most employers simply want to be able to, again provide them with the opportunity and respect that they deserve.

CONAN: Robert Hartwig, I wanted to thank you again for taking your time out from your vacation.

You can order a drink with an umbrella in it now.

HARTWIG: Thank you.

CONAN: Robert Hartwig is Chief Economist at the Insurance Information Institute and he joined us today from his vacation in Puerto Rico.

We're talking about the work place challenges faced by returning veteran's and by their employers, 800-989-8255 if you'd like to join us, 800-989-TALK.

The e-mail address is Of course we want to hear from those of you who are back either in your old job or looking for a new one. And from employers as well.

Again 800-989-8255. I'm Neal Conan; you're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(Soundbite music)

CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION; I'm Neal Conan in Washington.

As thousands of veterans return to work after serving in Iraq and Afghanistan we're talking about the challenges they and their employers face.

If you're back from that part of the world and back at work or looking for work give us a call. What's your experience been? We'd also like to hear from employers facing this situation. The number is 800-989-8255, 800-989-TALK, e-mail

Dean Eichelberger is coordinator of veteran's transition services through the Minnesota Department of Employment and economic development. He joins us today from Minnesota public radio in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Thanks very much for being with us.

Mr. DEAN EICHELBERGER, (Veterans Representative at the Willmar Workforce Center): Thank you for having me on.

CONAN: And I understand you're in St. Paul today preparing to welcome back some more veterans.

Mr. EICHELBERGER: I just came from Holman Field, where we welcomed a unit home with their families.

We kind of gave them a heads up on what to expect. Chaplain John Morris was--kind of leads the program in Minnesota where every unit that comes home we meet with them the day after they come home and go through a lot of the issues they will be facing in the next three to four months or year.

And kind of let them know what to expect, let their families know what to expect. And then as they transition back into employment, work with employers if they give us a call.

CONAN: What kind of experiences are the men you talk to, men and women you talk to finding out about?

Mr. EICHELBERGER: Experience as to what they did over there or experiences back here.

CONAN: Experience as in finding work here.

Mr. EICHELBERGER: Mostly in Minnesota we have a great opportunity. We have employers that are actually looking for these returning veterans, because they bring to the work place the skills and discipline and things that they learned in the military.

And that's pretty desirable for the leadership and things in, with the businesses that we have in Minnesota.

CONAN: Yet the unemployment rate among younger veterans is pretty high.

Mr. EICHELBERGER: Well, in many cases that maybe true nation wide. In Minnesota most of those folks who wanted the job can have a job. Or they go to school and things like that.

Many of those folks that come back may also look at the job that I had when I left and went into active military it is not the job that matches what I want to do now.

CONAN: Hmm mm.

Mr. EICHELBERGER: I've grown up in the last year if I'm a 19, 23, 24, 25 year old person. And in my interests have changed, my job goals have changed, my life goals have changed and I want to pursue those kinds of things.

So now maybe because of the benefits I have from, for education I want to go back to school. I want to look at some job training. I want to take part in some of the programs to advance myself rather than staying in a job that doesn't have meaning anymore.

CONAN: Let's get a caller on the line. And this is Tara. Tara's calling us from Kansas City.

TARA (Caller): Hi, I'm glad that you're talking about this. My sister just returned from Iraq on Christmas Eve and she was a barber in a small town before she left.

When she was told she had to leave she sold her business and now she has come back and has no job. Looking at what that's going to look at for those entrepreneurs who sold their business or left their business I the hands of people, family members, or those kinds of people, what that's like for them.

CONAN: Hmm mm. Go ahead Dean Eichelberger.

Mr. EICHELBERGER: Well we've dealt with that issue, or shouldn't say dealt with it. We've heard about that issue many times in Minnesota and we have economic development folks in most of our communities who have advice in some cases, low cost loans. Other organizations that will mentor people to start a business.

Our legislature in Minnesota has some folks who are veterans and are looking at that issue. And we don't have a solution for it yet.

We just, we know that they're there we know that they need help but in many cases to start up their business, again they need $50, $80, a $100, $150,000 to do that. And those economic incentives are there in the form of low interest loans. But that's the best of a solution that we have right now.

CONAN: Tara, any idea of what your sister's going to try to do?

TARA: Well I think that she might try to start, open another barber shop. But for them it's a very critical issue because her husband is now going to be deployed in July.

And so they'll just have six months together with their kids before he's gone and the finances will need to be taken care of.

CONAN: Boy they have, they have a complicated life.

TARA: They do and four kids on top of it.


Mr. EICHELBERGER: What are your resources in your community? Is there somebody with the military, a family assistance program? Or an organization where they can go to and say this is my issue; this is what I need for help.

In Minnesota we have a organization of 11 or so family assistance centers who have people that staff and folks with these kinds of issues can call those family assistance centers and say this is my issue. This is what I need. This is the help I need.

And somebody in that community will pick up the ball and go over and help those people. Even to the point of giving them some money to get over that issue.

I just heard a story this morning where a veteran was in the process of loosing his home. They were going to foreclose on; he needed $4,000 to make that house payment. We came up, I shouldn't say we, the family assistance organization through donations came up with the $4,000 to save his home.

CONAN: And if one were looking for one of those organizations and you're not in Minnesota, where might one look? Is it a federal organization, a state organization?

Mr. EICHELBERGER: These are, well I would go to your National Guard Family Assistance person. They may be a senior NCO or something like that. But, and I can't speak for Missouri and what they have.

CONAN: Hmm mm.

Mr. EICHELBERGER: I'm just talking from what's in Minnesota.

CONAN: Yeah.

Mr. EICHELBERGER: But there's a pretty good safety net for those families who have issues while their soldier is gone and who have issues when a solider comes home.

CONAN: Tara we wish your sister and her husband the best of luck.

TARA: Well thank you very much.

CONAN: We appreciate the phone call as well. Bye-Bye.

Let's get Marcus on the line. Marcus is calling us from Cincinnati.

MARCUS (Caller): Yes sir.

CONAN: Go ahead please, you're on the air.

MARCUS: Yes sir, the guest that was on just prior made the comment that he found it not too often that employers were trying to offer assistance, or offer training or find out more about their vet's coming back from over seas.

And he said that that wasn't all too common and occurrence.

CONAN: Right.

MARCUS: It seems to me that, all do respect that's somewhat of a no-brainer. The experiences that I've had coming back home, whether it be from going to school or talking to employers, whatever.

They assume for the most part that the government is taking care of the soldiers that return. You know, offering assistance, are you getting VA benefits, are you getting this are you getting that?

And although they, it's they offer a lot of concern and they ask a lot of questions. The assumption, the justified assumption on the part of employers that the government is taking care of these service men seems to get in the way of their offering assistance of their own.

CONAN: Are you speaking from experience here Marcus?

MARCUS: Yes sir, both my wife and myself returned from Iraq a little under a year ago. Since then I've gone to school and had a hard time getting in because everybody just assumed that the government was going to help pay for it.

And also my wife got an excellent job but there again the, it's understood that the government takes care of the soldiers.

CONAN: Is that a common misconception, Dean Eichelberger?

Mr. EICHELBERGER: Well, I wouldn't say it's a common misconception. And I think the government, I don't know what people think government is. If it's out of Washington D.C., probably they take care of soldiers who are injured through the hospital system.

I think in Minnesota it's the communities that take care of the soldiers when they come back. Its folks, you know I can say the Veteran's Employment Service in Minnesota, the Family Assistance centers in Minnesota. The American Legions and VFW's and things like that in our communities are the ones that are there, the county veteran's service officer.

We all work together as a team. If a soldier comes in to see me and I don't have the ability to help that person I can send them to the person in the community, or the person within the VA or the person within the National Guard who can help that soldier. And most likely it's a phone call.

And we make a phone call, we say, hey this veteran needs this and we put the veteran on the phone and make arrangements and take care of the problem.

The big issue is, as we heard earlier that many of the veterans don't come forward and don't say I have a problem. Whether it be pride or lack of knowledge of what's available. And so that's why we meet the veteran when he comes home and say this is the services that are available. There's about eight to ten people that give a ten minute talk the day after they come home. Now, maybe that veteran isn't listening very well, but the family members are there.

CONAN: They might not be on that particular day, yes.

Mr. EICHELBERGER: Right, but the family members are there and they're listening. Yeah, Marcus, go ahead.

MARCUS: I was just saying I guarantee they're not listening on that day. The minute you get off the plane you want to go home, you want to see your family. One of the caller mentioned that they're used to the structure...

CONAN: Yeah.

MARCUS: ...and as a soldier if I need something there's a chain of command. I go to the next person up to get everything I need. And although there are a lot of services out there, service members sometimes are kind of, you know, forbidden from going anywhere because they're just so confused by all the options, where to go, who to call, between the FRG and the VA and the DOD and the PHS. I mean, who knows where to go to get what.

CONAN: Yeah.

MARCUS: And you end up, you know, being--my wife has had a heck of a lot of problems trying to get help from the VA and, you know, over--we've been home for nearly a month and I think we finally found that lead where she can get help.

CONAN: Marcus, what are you even studying?

MARCUS: I'm studying Arts Administration.

CONAN: Well, good luck with that.

MARCUS: Thank you sir.

CONAN: Appreciate the phone call.

MARCUS: I appreciate your show. Thank you.

CONAN: Thanks very much. Let me ask you Dean Eichelberger, also, the jobs that these men and women have had in Afghanistan and Iraq, well, there's a lot of sitting around waiting and boredom, but there's also a lot of adrenaline. And that kind of life is hard to--there's very few civilian equivalents to that.

Mr. EICHELBERGER: Agreed. The veteran who comes home who's lived over there for the past year, longer or shorter, is used to that adrenaline rush, that adrenaline high and things like that. The transition back to the civilian life has a lot of roadblocks and a lot of issues that person needs to overcome. That's no different, though, than the Vietnam or the World War II or the Korean veteran. That transition is something that we've all made when we came home and everybody gets through it.

But you kind of have to realize that that transition really is a six months, nine months, in some cases longer, before you get used to living in safety. Living where there's not going to be an IUD go off at any minute or somebody on a bridge top isn't going to drop something or as the earlier call mentioned a vehicle coming into your convoy.

CONAN: Yeah.

Mr. EICHELBERGER: And so those feelings are things that they have to, over a period of time, get used to not having to worry about that. And if you've experienced that that's tough to leave behind and that's why we have these issues with the transitioning servicemen and people call it PTSD, but if you talk to the people at the VA if you're having an issue a year from now, yes maybe it's PTSD. If it's just a couple of months out give it some time.

CONAN: We're talking today about the transition from war to work. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

Drew Meyers is president of An Ohio company that matches employers and ex-military job candidates. He's with us now from his office in Cincinnati, Ohio. Nice to have you on the program today.

Mr. DREW MEYERS (President of Nice to be here, Neal. Thank you.

CONAN: You found that veterans make good hires?

Mr. MEYERS: We do. We remain very excited about what veterans bring to corporate America and other organizations. We started the company about eight years ago and we've got 38 veterans that work for us nationwide. We're helping actively more than 4000 companies hire veterans.

I've been listening to the conversation with a great deal of interest. We think that the best way to help veterans is to get out and educate employers about the specific reasons that they should hire veterans. And we explain or educate...

CONAN: What are some of their misconceptions.

Mr. MEYERS: Well, I think that there's a stereotype out there that civilians that haven't served don't fully understand the unique skill sets that veterans bring to the workplace. Neal, we partnered, for example, with the National Association of Manufacturing, which is the largest trade association in the country.

Because the Baby Boomers are coming of retirement age, as you know I'm sure, there's a skill shortage hitting U.S. manufacturing companies. And it's only going to get worse. And what the transition veteran audience, about 190,000 veterans per year, bring are skill sets that match up really well with the skill shortages found in many of these manufacturing companies.

CONAN: Hmm. Let's get another caller on the line. Chad. Chad's calling us from Fort Wayne, Indiana.

CHAD (Caller): Good afternoon, gentlemen.

CONAN: Good afternoon.

CHAD: Well, I just--I was listening with great interest to your conversation. I just returned from Iraq January 1st.

CONAN: Welcome home.

CHAD: Well, thank you. Appreciate it. I got back, contacted my employer right away, let him know I was back, took my wife on a vacation to Mexico, came back, went right back to work. Seamless. My company has been great to me. They threw me right back into the fire. I'm a sales manager. Threw me right back in and it's been a seamless transition and I thank them for that. They've been nothing but very positive and good to me and my wife.

CONAN: Chad, that's great to hear.

CHAD: Definitely. But I also wanted to address--I know some callers brought up some other issues about support. The military--they've done a pretty good job, a fairly good job for the most part. For example, I'm going to officer's school next month. In addition to that, I'm going to get my master's degree paid for through my tour, which is a great thing, however, they left my wife behind while I was deployed. And I'm pretty upset with that, because now my wife is dealing with a lot of issues upon my return. More so then what I'm dealing with.


CHAD: And to be quite honest with you I've tried to go to and get that support for her. Actually, she needed it while I was gone. And she was--nobody was willing to help and I don't know what to do now.

CONAN: Were you in the Guard?

CHAD: Reserves.

CONAN: Reserves, yeah? And, again, Dean Eichelberger, any advice. I mean, I guess that door's closed at this point.

Mr. EICHELBERGER: Well, I don't know what happens in his state. In Minnesota, we look at the family unit and we treat the spouses the same as we do, in employment related issues, as the veteran. And so if she's had some of those issues I would suggest that as he said I've gone and looked for help, but keep knocking on doors. Keep using the phone and saying hey, this is our issue, who do we go to for help.

CONAN: Chad, good luck to you and your wife.

CHAD: Thank you.

CONAN: Appreciate it. We're going to have to ask Dean and Drew to stay with us over the break. This is TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.

Right now we're talking about returning veterans and the challenges they face as they reintegrate into the civilian workplace. Our guests are Dean Eichelberger of the Veterans Transition Service through the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. Also, still with us is Drew Meyers, a president of

And Drew Meyers, let me ask you straight out, are the employers that you talk to, any of them, worried that they're going to have post traumatic stress cases on their hands or people who could go wacky.

Mr. MEYERS: No, you know, I really have to say that we haven't heard that. We work with thousands of different organizations and I can tell you that I haven't heard that as a concern or even really gotten questions about it.

CONAN: Really? So we seem to be beyond that, thank heavens.

Mr. MEYERS: Yeah, I think so. I think, you know, part of that could be that they're just, I think as Dean mentioned earlier, they're just unaware that perhaps a veteran or two may have some problems because they just don't come forward to talk about it or to seek help, perhaps.

CONAN: And let me get another listener on the line. This is Jason. Jason calling us from Leesburg in Florida.

JASON (Caller): Yeah, hi. I was just wondering, is it possible that some of the veterans that are returning who are having trouble adjusting to civilian life again are suffering from the same thing that prisoners that are being released suffer from? Being that they're institutionalized and that their way of life that they're used to is incompatible with civilian life.

CONAN: Let me ask either of our guests at this moment. Drew, you were in the military.

Mr. MEYERS: I was. I served for seven years on active duty in the Marine Corp. no, I don't think so. I think other than the boot camp experience where, you know, you're under some pretty stressful harsh conditions and you sort of don't get out into the civilian community, you're kind of locked down going through training, that you sort of don't get that exposure to the outside.

But by and large today's military is out in the community in different jobs. I mean most people leave the base and go home at night. Those people that aren't obviously overseas in Iraq. You know, other than obvious combat conditions that affect people, I think, the large majority of military that aren't serving in the combat zone right now really live relatively normal lives.

CONAN: And we have to emphasize that despite the numbers in Iraq and Afghanistan the great majority of the military is not there. Jason's right. Combat can give you that sort of tunnel vision, can't it?

Mr. MEYERS: Yeah. I think so. I mean, for sure, those veterans that are overseas right now and that are serving their country clearly are very focused and having to concentrate and, you know, sort of in that routine. You know I think that that's part of the unemployment number being a bit high when the veterans come back.

There's clearly a lot of these guys need to take a break when they get home and sort of start their job search and reflect on their experiences and reconnect with family. And I think that takes, you know, more than a week or two. It takes, you know, in some cases a couple of months to sort of get your feet on the ground and figure out what you want to do.

CONAN: Jason...

JASON: That's exactly what I was talking--that's exactly the point I was trying to make.

CONAN: Jason, thanks very much.

JASON: Thank you.

CONAN: Am I hearing you trying to get in there Dean Eichelberger?

Mr. EICHELBERGER: Yeah. The veteran that comes home has 90 days to return to his employer if they've been gone for a year or something like that. And I think many of those veterans are encouraged to take that time to get back to their home, their family, and let them decompress for that time.

The transition back is coming back to the family, to mother who's taking care of the kids, taking care of the home, has carried the burden by herself for a whole year. And now this veteran's coming back in and kind of disrupting the normal flow of things.

And they have to understand that things are going to change again. And now that he's home, or she's home, they have to be reintegrated into the family. That takes some time. They have to come back into the community. They have to learn that the high level of adrenaline isn't there anymore and how to kind of slow down.

And what's happening with a lot of veterans is gambling and alcohol and, in some cases, drugs become that substitute for that adrenaline rush. But, you know, if--and maybe that goes on, the partying goes on for a month.

But then, you know, things kind of begin to settle down. And then a month later or so or whenever they feel it's right, they go back to that employer. The veteran who has issues probably isn't going back to that employer. And the red flags are being raised by the family members of saying this veteran needs help.

And that's where, you know, the support community that I'm involved with steps to the front. And our chaplains in Minnesota are doing a wonderful job of helping these folks.

In the case of John Major Morris, he's been over in Afghanistan. He came back. He lived that experience. He knows how to relate to these folks that are coming home. Sergeant Huff, who led a unit over there, has been back for a little over a year now and comes out and talks to these -- he lets these folks know what to expect and lays it on the line in down-to-earth soldier language that these are the things that you're going to have for issues and this is what's going to happen in the next three weeks and three months. And be aware of it so that if there's an issue, we can help you. And here's where you go for help.

CONAN: All right. Let's get one last caller on the line. This is Chris. Chris calling us from Tucson, Arizona.

CHRIS (Caller): Hi.

CONAN: Hi, Chris.

CHRIS: I've got two points I'd like to make. One is about the employers hiring veterans, veterans looking for jobs. The best thing employers can do is hire more than one vet. And vets should try to find places where there's already a veteran working there because one veteran can explain things to the other, as you said, in the language you both understand.

I can explain things to other vets in the same language we used when we were in the army when we were overseas. And so veterans can help each other out in a job.

CONAN: Drew Meyers, does that sound like a good plan?

MEYERS: It really does. I really appreciate that comment. We found that the companies that seek us out or are most open to considering veterans are those hiring managers or decision makers that they themselves are veterans.

CONAN: And Chris, you had another point?

CHRIS: Yes, about the adrenaline because you talked about that in several ways.


CHRIS: The adrenaline addiction. And I had that problem. I came back and I over-reacted to things. And I needed to find not just an outlet for my energy but I had to find a way of winding it down, toning it down, bleeding it off.

And what I recommend is something like martial arts where you're still active. But if you're doing like martial arts, like Tai Chi or Tae Kwan Do where you also learn to relax, it helps prevent a lot of the problems.

CONAN: And you learn control, too, discipline.


CONAN: Yes. Chris, thanks for the phone call. We appreciate it.

CHRIS: My pleasure. Bye.

CONAN: Good luck. And thanks to both of our guests. Drew Meyers, president of, appreciate your time today.

MEYERS: Thank you, Neal.

CONAN: Drew Meyers joined us on the line from Cincinnati, Ohio, where his office is. Dean Eichelberger, thank you so much for being with us today.

EICHELBERGER: Thank you for the opportunity to be here. And thank you to all those veterans out there who have served our country.

CONAN: And Dean Eichelberger, a veterans representative at the Willmar WorkForce Center, joined us today from the studios of Minnesota Public Radio in St. Paul.

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