A job for a wounded warrior
By Ronald Paul
As we celebrate the holidays, Washington business and community leaders can do much to make the future brighter for our wounded warriors. Many Iraqi and Afghanistan battle veterans have arrived home only to face an extraordinarily painful and lengthy rehabilitation. Some have lost limbs and endured burns and trauma — and almost all carry the burden of invisible wounds. Yet, for many, the hardest and most challenging struggle comes after rehabilitation, when they seek to enter the workforce.
There are nearly 68,000 disabled veterans in the Washington Metropolitan area, their injuries a direct result of their service to the nation. Nearly a third have post-traumatic stress disorder, many have suffered brain injuries and 25 percent are amputees.
While they receive the best care we can offer at Walter Reed and other specialized medical centers across the country, they are discharged into what is frequently an impossibly daunting employment landscape.
While it is true that the military offers disability payments, these payments are frequently insufficient to allow for veterans to care for themselves and their families. But, more important, our veterans want and need to work. These young people went into battle with courage and determination, . They come from the same backgrounds that inspired “the greatest generation,” and they deserve the opportunity to regain the self-respect that employment confers.
Most of the returning wounded are in their 20s and 30s. Because of their ages, They left for war at the beginning of both their professional and family lives. They are re-entering the civilian workforce at a time when they need to find careers that will 8sustain them for decades — and allow them to provide for their 8children.
National, state and local governments should take a leading role on this issue. Some federal incentives promote employment opportunities for disabled veterans, but they are insufficient to address the magnitude of the problem. Tax credits are a proven model for giving the private sector an incentive to act. The D.C. Council should consider such a program given the enormous number of veterans who live or receive treatment in the region. Our local economy relies heavily on government contracting, including defense spending. As such, we have both a greater opportunity and a heightened obligation to offer 8assistance.
But regardless of incentives, Washington area businesses should step up their efforts to recruit 8disabled veterans. Human resource directors throughout the metropolitan area — and elsewhere in the country — should visit the Wounded Warrior Project Web site, and most specifically the Warriors to Work program section. This site provides extensive information on centers where soldiers register and seek employment assistance. Many of these centers also can counsel prospective employers on how to provide for any special needs that wounded warriors may have.
Make no mistake, however, hiring disable veterans with disabilities is not charity. Business and civic leaders who are interested in helping are sure to discover that this is no ordinary group of job-seekers — but rather individuals with extraordinary focus, integrity and resilience. Though they have suffered grievous injuries, their workplace skills are unaffected when appropriate accommodations are made. Many have university or community college degrees, and some are also interested in part-time jobs that will allow them to pursue more education and training. They seek jobs in areas as widespread as trucking, construction, engineering, information technology IT, health care, teaching, sales and banking. Their military experience has also reinforced their sense of discipline and 9mission.
It is easy to simply express gratitude to the men and women in the armed forces who defend our liberty. It is more difficult to confront the toll of war on these young lives and to commit to help our wounded veterans regain the normalcy and quality of life we all seek and for which they served to protect. By reaching out and providing jobs, we demonstrate our true appreciation for those whose sacrifice has been immeasurable.
I hope that the Washington community will lead the way in offering critically needed employment opportunities — establishing a lasting benchmark of compassion, civic-mindedness and gratitude in this holiday season.
The writer is chairman of EagleBank.
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