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CNN PRESENTS

Voters in America: Vets Wanted

Aired May 19, 2012 - 20:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

J.R. MARTINEZ, HOST: When I was asked to be a part of this documentary, I absolutely said yes right off the bat. Because it's important to raise awareness about guys coming home and how difficult it is for them to be able to find employment.

EDWARD OLIVER, GEORGIA DEPARTMENT OF LABOR: Do you have a plan for employment?

SPC. DAMON BOYD, 877TH ENGINEER COMPANY: It's great to see our families. It's been a really long time. Who's going to put me to work so I can take care of them?

SPC. THOMAS GOBER, 877TH ENGINEER COMPANY: Who knows. It could be a month. Could be a year before I can find a job.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I applied to a lot of places. The reason they didn't hire me is because I was in the National Guard.

MARTINEZ: I don't think that a lot of people are aware of the fact that what our veterans and their families go through when they come home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just give us a chance to prove that we're actually more than just soldiers. We might be the best workers you've ever seen in a long time.

MARTINEZ: When they come home is actually when the real battle begins.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SGT. CHRISTOPHER WILEY, 877TH ENGINEER COMPANY: You're overseas, and you are out doing your fighting. And nighttime is when you have time to think, whenever all the action stops. That's when your brain starts working. And sometimes it is scary to think about it. Then you tell yourself in the back of your head, look, you're going to find something. You'll find a job. You'll find a job out there somewhere.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I got kids to provide for so I can't really be picky right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know that there's a lot of jobs open back home. I'm a little worried about it. I'm not going to lie about that. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I got several people asking, but nothing, and nothing solid and concrete.

SPC. ALLEN BROWN, 877TH ENGINEER COMPANY: It's kind of hard for National Guard soldier coming home, or even National Guard soldiers in general when you're home trying to find a job.

MARTINEZ: The soldiers of the 877th Engineer Company of the Georgia National Guard are getting ready to come home and search for work. They spent the past year in Afghanistan building bridges, cleaning roads, and dodging rocket propelled grenades.

T. GOBER: Not only do you have to think about safety or getting home, but I always have to remind my wife how much can you put in savings? Because who knows, it could be a month, could be a year, before I can find a job.

SARAH GOBER, WIFE: When Thomas and I get to speak with each other, it's typically, how are you, how are the kids, is everything OK?

I put a thousand in savings.

He'll say, did I get paid on time? Was it the right amount? Did you pay the bills?

Yes, I paid the bills.

We have to put the extra in savings because when he comes home, we're not going to have a paycheck anymore. It's going to run out, and we've got to have something to survive off of.

MARTINEZ: Thomas Gober joined the National Guard out of high school. After three combat tours, most of his job experience is military.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are ready. Let's roll.

MARTINEZ: He volunteered to deploy to Afghanistan because he couldn't find a steady civilian job.

S. GOBER: He kept getting turned down. He wouldn't get a call back. He just said that he kind of had that feeling that they weren't going to hire him because on his resume, he has put on there the Army National Guard. He thought that they were more afraid of him being deployed again.

MARTINEZ: Now, the soldiers of the 877th are facing a new mission, employment.

WILEY: Coming home as a guard soldier, unless you have a job already secured before you left, you're on a man hunt.

MARTINEZ: They call him grandpa. At 41, Sergeant Chris Wiley has managed restaurants and small businesses. He's been a tank instructor and supervised a platoon of 50 soldiers.

WILEY: I've had a lot of experience before the military. A lot of management experience. I have three children, one granddaughter. One daughter is in college. My other daughter, she's still at home.

D. BOYD: I've got a wife and two kids to take care of. So this actually makes it seem like the easy time here. I got a steady check coming in, know what I can count on. Now I've got to go home and wonder, you know, who's going to put me to work.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're almost there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. We're back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. That's what I like right there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Great job, buddy. Great job.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Second tour is done.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Iraq, Afghanistan, back to the U.S. Home from here on out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Welcome home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On the ground, we're heading home to Georgia.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Welcome home.

WILEY: We've been watching you for the whole year, the whole time. You knocked it out of the park over there. And we're so proud of you and glad to have you home. So let me hear one more big Georgia hooah. All right.

D. BOYD: Coming home, finding work, that's what's on everybody's mind right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Missed you, brother.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks, man.

MARTINEZ: They'll spend a week at a military base in New Jersey, then home to Georgia. A federal law called USERRA protects the jobs of National Guard soldiers. Those who had jobs before they left can go back to them. But half the soldiers are coming home unemployed.

MAJ. PAMELA ELLISON, NATIONAL GUARD BUREAU: When you left your job, you were supposed to let them know that you were going for military service. Did you all do that?

Some of our soldiers are going on multiple deployments because they don't have employment in the civilian sector. Others, where they were is going out of business so the protections that are in place aren't applicable. Sometimes they are getting terminated against the protections that are in place.

You have to return to work under the USERRA guidelines.

PAUL RIECKHOFF, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR AND FOUNDER, IAVA: Some of them are young and they don't have transferable skills. Some of them don't know how to turn a military resume into a civilian resume.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of certification stuff from the military don't transfer. You could have thousands and thousands of road hours as a truck driver in the National Guard. You don't have a license to drive civilian.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What you're about to go into is no different from a combat zone. Now think about that. You're going home. And it says it's no different than a combat zone.

ELLISON: The 877th out of the Georgia National Guard is not unique in their challenges. We're seeing the units that are coming back are experiencing similar rates of half or more than half of their unit being unemployed. It's never been critical like it is now.

WILEY: Natural disasters, state emergencies. Sometimes you're called up, and your employer doesn't understand that you have something to do for the country, for your state.

RIECKHOFF: Many employers are reluctant to hire a National Guardsman because of the simple fact that they don't know if they're going to be here.

ELLISON: You are entitled to unemployment. You are going to purchase an 18-month conversion health insurance plan. If you are --

D. BOYD: I'm a good welder. I'm a really good welder. So I go in, everybody will be all excited and everything. Yes, a young guy can weld. Let's put him to work. Let me look at your application. National Guard, present employer. How often do you have to be gone? One weekend a month, couple of weeks in the summer. That's it, you know. Other than that, I want to work. Sorry, I can't afford it. I can't make them hire me.

MARTINEZ: Nationwide, the unemployment rate for National Guard soldiers is higher than the civilian population. In some states, it's double.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: To our veterans, know that we will stand with you as long as it takes for you to find a job. And to our businesses, let me say again, if you are hiring, hire a veteran.

MARTINEZ: While the 877th was deployed, new legislation giving tax incentives for hiring veterans was passed.

OBAMA: There you go.

(APPLAUSE)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: How about our soldiers coming home that can't find work? You can talk to them as well.

MARTINEZ: And presidential candidates are paying attention.

RIECKHOFF: There's been a lot of talk in the last couple of years about the surge in Iraq and the surge in Afghanistan. The reality is, we have a surge of veterans coming home.

MARTINEZ: It is estimated that in the next five years, one million soldiers will leave the military and look for work.

RIECKHOFF: Veterans want to hear candidates talking about veterans, and not in a patronizing "I wish I had joined the military", "I love your service" kind of way. But policy changes and policy proposals that are specific. Show me specifically how you're going to lower the unemployment rate in my congressional district.

S. GOBER: When I go to vote for the next president, I hope to look for somebody who will stay true to their words and help the economy and help bring jobs.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My daddy, my daddy.

MARTINEZ: Will the jobs be there for the soldiers of the 877th when they come home?

D. BOYD: It's great to see hour families. It's been a really long time. Who's going to put me to work so I can take care of them?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MARTINEZ: Since 9/11, the Georgia National Guard has deployed more than 12,000 soldiers to fight overseas. Today, 147 are coming home to Georgia.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come on. Get on the bus. Let's go.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good to be back in Georgia.

MARTINEZ: At Carmelo Marcelin's house, they've been up for hours getting ready.

MARIE EDOUARD MARCELIN, CARMELO'S MOM: Oh, I'm so excited.

MARTINEZ: He's only 24, but he's supporting his mother and two siblings.

SPC. CARMELO MARCELIN, 877TH ENGINEER COMPANY: You can't just stop providing. You've got to keep that income going, so you have to look for a job to keep providing.

M. MARCELIN: Today is the best day of my life.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, baby.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Welcome home, Casey.

ALLYSON BOYD, WIFE: It's exciting but nerve racking all at the same time because he's not here. I can't see him. I can't touch him, but I know he's coming.

D. BOYD: I'm really, really looking forward to seeing my family.

RAMONA BOYD, MOTHER: I've had two sons go to war, and I've had two sons come back home safe.

WILEY: While I was deployed, my daughter gave birth to my first grandchild. I'm just looking forward to holding her, spoiling her.

T. GOBER: I'm looking forward to seeing my family, my kids, my wife, the dog, cat, my house. Everything. Just spending time with them for a few weeks and then getting back on the job hunt.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Check them out, man. That's awesome.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wave, wave.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, thank you.

S. GOBER: I hope he doesn't have another deployment. I'm really praying he gets another job because it's getting hard on the kids now that they're getting older. They kind of understand that daddy's gone. It's a great feeling just to know that they've made it home safely. Now they're here. They're coming home. We've survived the year.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My daddy, my daddy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get on up, get on up.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have done a great job. You've done your duty. Now it's time for your country to take care of you.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I challenge those who are out here, politicians, businesses, corporate, let a soldier get a job.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's right.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's great to see you home. Welcome home. Merry Christmas.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, this concludes today's welcome home ceremony.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

M. MARCELIN: Thank you, lord.

T. GOBER: Hey, sweetie. What are you doing? Hey.

My favorite part is watching their faces. You could tell that they knew who I was. Took them like a second to click in, it's like (INAUDIBLE), their eyes would light up and stuff. That was my favorite part.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know where your wife is. I lost her.

D. BOYD: It's OK. She'll find me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dude. Welcome home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dude.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come on, man.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where they at?

A. D. BOYD: He wasn't OK until I could see his face and touch his face and, you know, feel his arms around me hugging me, and telling me that he loves me. I wore his wedding ring around my neck the entire time he was gone. And being able to put his wedding band back on his hand was the most -- I don't even know how it describe it.

D. BOYD: It's great to see our families. It's been a really long time. How are we going to take care of them? Who's going to put me to work so I can take care of them?

T. GOBER: Here, I got them some presents.

S. GOBER: Look, daddy's got a gift for you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My kitty.

S. GOBER: You got a hat like daddy.

T. GOBER: A whole outfit like me. Now you can be a soldier. Look, bud.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Like you?

T. GOBER: Yes, like that.

S. GOBER: OK, I'm going to get a picture.

T. GOBER: Come here.

S. GOBER: Awesome.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MARTINEZ: I've witnessed a lot of my friends go through the struggle of what are they going to do now.

T. GOBER: Everybody's happy to see you, but, you know, you got to go back to reality sooner than later. If you have a job, you have to get back to work. And if you don't have a job, you have to look for work. I've applied for some security companies. I got a few police departments.

MARTINEZ: The Gobers are hoping Thomas can find a job before the savings from his deployment run out.

T. GOBER: Anybody that's military or vet friendly, anything that seems interesting I click on.

TED DAYWALT, CEO AND PRESIDENT, VETJOBS: Some of our peak days, we'd only have 1500 to 2500 people on the site at a given time. In the last six months, we're seeing periods of time during the day where we'll have 6,000 to 8,000 people on the site at one time. We're seeing our traffic very high, even at 3:00 and 4:00 in the morning now.

MARTINEZ: In the past, the National Guard was used mostly for domestic emergencies, but on 9/11 that all changed.

RIECKHOFF: Before 9/11, the National Guard units almost never deployed, didn't go to combat. And for the most part you had one weekend a month and two weeks a year. Now you have National Guard units that have been deployed three times for a year since 9/11. They're not weekend warriors. They're full-time warriors now.

SEN. PATTY MURRAY, VETERANS AFFAIRS CHAIRWOMAN: They are good. They're qualified. They've proven themselves, and they are way to prosecute these wars without bringing more people in. So it's sort of become easy. You remember the National Guard or Reserve. When you go home, you go back into the civilian world almost immediately. So you are not a cost to taxpayers.

S. GOBER: It comes with everything we need.

MURRAY: From an investment perspective in terms of our taxpayers, it's a good investment, and it is cost effective. From a personal perspective on these guard members and reserve members and their family, it's a huge cost.

DAYWALT: They are now an operational reserve, meaning that they're used much more frequently. They're called up on a regular basis. Some people say it's a backdoor draft.

MARTINEZ: But not everyone in the 877th can look for work.

SPC. ALLEN BROWN, 877TH ENGINEER COMPANY: I don't have thoughts of harming myself or thoughts of harming someone else. But sometimes I do have that -- I find myself in that military mind frame as if anyone can be the enemy.

MARTINEZ: Alan brown is undergoing treatment at a military hospital in Georgia.

BROWN: Well, at this point in time, they are looking more so on a lot of the PTSD diagnosis and a lot of depression.

MARTINEZ: He needs to get better and find a job to support his daughters, but he's worried.

BROWN: A lot of employers question themselves and their management -- leadership. Do we want to hire a person that has been diagnosed with this kind of disability? Is he going to faint while he's working?

MARTINEZ: It's estimated that up to 20 percent of more than 2.4 million veterans from the Second Gulf War have post-traumatic stress disorder. But even those who don't must endure its stigma.

RIECKHOFF: Many people in this country have this idea that vets are ticking time bombs are they're going to be Rambo. There are plenty of people who function every day and doing incredibly well with PTSD. So I would encourage people not to be afraid of it. Understand it. But also understand that not everybody come home with PTSD.

A. D. BOYD: It's a box. Tell mama thank you for our box. Now go hang your ornament on the tree.

D. D. BOYD: I'm expecting to wake up. It's weird. It takes some getting used to waking up in your own bed.

A. D. BOYD: The best part about him being home is he's here. I know he's OK. I don't worry about him every day in and out.

MARTINEZ: Damon Boyd has been trying to get a full-time job with the National Guard as a recruiter.

D. D. BOYD: I had a job lined up, supposed to be a done deal. Found out the other day that they lost funding for the job. Army's cutting back, so the position that I was supposed to fill is no longer there. Big disappointment. That job was best-case scenario for my wife and myself. She's diabetic, so she's got to have diabetic supplies every month. And they're very expensive.

MARTINEZ: He's off to the local Department of Labor to meet with a veteran's representative. His wife Ally goes with him.

OLIVER: I need to know what your skills are. I need to know exactly what it is you can do.

D. D. BOYD: Structural welder.

OLIVER: OK.

D. D. BOYD: I can make (INAUDIBLE).

OLIVER: Do you have a plan for employment?

D. D. BOYD: My goal, I want a comfortable salary where I don't have to stress, you know, being able to take care of my family.

OLIVER: OK.

D. D. BOYD: But I want to be able to help people.

OLIVER: OK. Hey, I'm Edward Oliver, Department of Labor. Just looking over the job announcement. I think I have a gentleman that meets those qualifications sitting here with me. Thanks. Have a great weekend.

Here's a list of some of the positions that you're actually qualified for. OK? Great meeting you, man.

D. D. BOYD: Thank you very much.

OLIVER: Good to see you.

D. D. BOYD: I appreciate your time.

MARTINEZ: He leaves with four leads.

OLIVER: I do know people are being hired. At the same time, I'm aware of some businesses that are closing. So the outlook, I don't know. I guess in percentage-wise, 50/50. Not that those are great odds, but it is what it is.

D. D. BOYD: I have no more pay coming in. I'm done. There's no more income. So, yes, it's very critical right now.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

D. BOYD: I have no more pay coming in. I'm done. There's no more income, so, yes, it's very critical right now.

MARTINEZ: Damon Boyd is still searching for work. The job leads from the Department of Labor did not pan out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Recruiting does not have a -- 24/7 you are on call to answer people that want to come and join.

D. BOYD: Right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You'll get a call from the call center. They'll say, hey, listen, he's on the phone with us wanting to talk to you. So you want to (INAUDIBLE). You want to use every means necessary to make contact.

D. BOYD: I'm looking at a job in recruiting now. I'm here on volunteer time. I'm not drawing a check. So now it's just strictly trying to find a job and building my resume.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's questions they have to answer all the way through the resume.

D. BOYD: OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. That is the golden rule of recruiting.

D. BOYD: I'm putting a lot of hopes in the Guard. It's always been best-case scenario for myself and my wife.

MARTINEZ: In Savannah, it's the First Yellow Ribbon weekend since the 877th came home a month and a half ago. The Yellow Ribbon program helps soldiers reintegrate back into the civilian life with classes and counseling.

Carmelo Marcelin is one of the lucky ones. He's already found a job. C. MARCELIN: I work at a plant. The plant I work at ships aTVs. I set them up for shipment and load it up on the trucks. It was important to get a job because I help support my mom, my brother, my sister. It's a lot of responsibilities. Coming from Afghanistan, the income that you are getting, you have to keep something similar, close to it because that's what your family's depending on.

MARTINEZ: He also plans on using the post-9/11 G.I. Bill to finish college.

C. MARCELIN: I'm going to try to do fashion retail and management. Get some good experiences and stuff under my belt. I want to try to be a stylist. When I'm trying to do that at the same time, I'm going to try to work.

MARTINEZ: Only 25 percent of the soldiers of the 877th have attended college.

RIECKHOFF: It's a tough economic environment. If you don't have a college degree, whether you're a National Guard or not you're at a disadvantage.

LT. COL. MARK LONDON, DIR. OF SOLDIER AND FAMILY SERVICE, GEORGIA NATIONAL GUARD: You know, jobs, the number one priority of our organization, you know, we have talked to businesses. We have been out pounding the street trying to find jobs, and we have made a lot of contacts.

I think it is a national issue. And the public needs to be aware that returning guardsmen and reservists, you know, need a job.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You can go to this Web site. Create an account. Upload your resumes and things like that. You can go and look at the jobs that are posted.

T. GOBER: Since I've been back, I've been putting in resumes, tweaking my own resume, applications. Mostly online. Pretty much just, you know, researching everything.

I don't see any improvement in the job searches or the employment. Right now I've filled out application after application. I haven't heard anything back. You know, the couple jobs you do hear back, you don't hear again. You know? This time a tax thing, where they get a tax break for hiring a veteran. But I don't even know if anybody even knows about that yet.

MARTINEZ: He started looking months ago from Afghanistan, but Thomas Gober can't seem to get a single job interview.

T. GOBER: In a perfect world, I would find an actual career that I could stay in for 20 years and retire, and stay at home. Something that can keep me at home.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So your resume has to pop.

WILEY: The jobs I was liking to come back to does not exist anymore because of the cutbacks.

MARTINEZ: Before he left, Chris Wiley was working full time for the Georgia National Guard.

WILEY: So now that that's not there anymore and I'm having to get out and find a regular job in the civilian world, it's a big change, a real big change.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You want to grab their attention.

WILEY: There's not a whole lot of jobs out there right now. The pressure is on. That's when I sit down, started writing a resume, sending them out. It's getting down to the wire now. I think the stress is starting to kind of hit both of us now.

MARTINEZ: He was making close to $50,000 a year before deployment. Now he supports his family with tips.

WILEY: I know the jobs are out there. The thing is, there's so many people looking. There might be 20 jobs open in one place. But yet, 2,000 people have applied for it. Those aren't good odds. It's almost like playing the lottery. You know, you get that good job, it's just a -- it's a toss-up.

MARTINEZ: He's running out of savings and time.

WILEY: With this job now, plus the savings, it's going to last us for a couple more months at least. Three months is the maximum. If I haven't found anything in three months, then I'm going back to Afghanistan.

MARTINEZ: Chris Wiley is looking for a military-friendly employer. The National Guard has cost him his civilian job before.

WILEY: They didn't want to work with me. They didn't want to let me off to do my duty. They didn't want to let me be a soldier.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ESGR, Alicia speaking. May I help you? What's going on at your job, sir?

MARTINEZ: At a Department of Defense office outside of Washington, D.C.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So are they telling you that the actual position is going away?

MARTINEZ: The phone rings all day long.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You cannot give it to another person.

MARTINEZ: Last year, the Employer Support of Guard and Reserve handled almost 30,000 inquiries, mostly from service members.

JOHN PERKINS, EMPLOYER SUPPORT OF THE GUARD AND RESERVE: Generally speaking, of course, the biggest concern is when a job goes away. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You did give notification that you had military service. The law states that you should be allotted for an extended period of time.

MURRAY: There are employers who really are great at supporting a guard and reserve member who goes overseas, but there are other employers who just go, oh, gosh, that's a problem for me. This guy or this woman has left for a year, and I don't like dealing with it.

MARTINEZ: Senator Patty Murray is working to strengthen the law, protecting the jobs of the guard and reserve soldiers.

MURRAY: We need better tools for our guard and reserve members to really file complaints and for agencies to really go after the bad actors.

S. GOBER: Daddy's coming back, remember?

T. GOBER: I've been gone too long. I know it takes a toll on me. It's got to take a toll on them.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MARTINEZ: Our service members can bring a lot to the work force and contribute in a lot of ways. And quite honestly, they want to work. They're looking to work. They want to be independent. They want to be able to provide for themselves.

S. GOBER: I kind of vote just who I feel is going to be right for the job. I just kind of feel what's going to be the best for our country. And you know, just for our family.

MARTINEZ: Jobs remain a key issue for voters like the Gobers.

T. GOBER: I think probably the best thing to do is bring a lot of the jobs back to the United States that we've put out to different countries. You know? That would probably help a lot.

MARTINEZ: After three months of constant searching, Thomas has landed his first job interview.

T. GOBER: My son, I think, he is attached to me. He's like my shadow. He has -- he has a pretty hard time. He won't let me go anywhere without him.

S. GOBER: Daddy's coming back. He's coming back. You're fine. He's coming back. Daddy's coming back, remember?

T. GOBER: I can't even go to the gas station without him crying. It hit him hardest out of anybody. If I had to go again, life's tough. You know, if nothing else pans out and we're about to lose everything, yes, that's probably the last option at that point.

MARTINEZ: The interview is with a convenience store chain.

T. GOBER: The excitement of just being able to be home. Out of the hell hole. You have to figure out what you're going to do, you know, job-wise, school-wise. You've got to do something.

MARTINEZ: After an hour inside, Thomas is relieved to have his first interview behind him.

T. GOBER: They did ask me if I had any experience in retail or cash register. And I have nothing. I mean, the closest I have is loss prevention, like security. It went decent, you know. I had to take a test I didn't know I have going to have to take. It was pretty easy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Daddy.

S. GOBER: So what did they say?

T. GOBER: They said that I would know something either way in the next two weeks.

S. GOBER: They didn't say anything about pay?

T. GOBER: It's $11 an hour starting out. Like, you get bonuses and raises every few months or something like that.

MARTINEZ: At $11 an hour, the pay would put the Gobers just above the poverty line for a family of four. If Thomas gets the job, he will earn half of his deployment pay.

S. GOBER: We've definitely of made a commitment to ourselves and our children that no matter what, we will always keep our house. If we have to, we'll let the cars go. But we want our children to have a stable home, and we want them to know that this will be their home.

MARTINEZ: Sarah is also looking for work, but she's discovered childcare costs more than she can earn.

S. GOBER: I may be able to get something, but it may be a minimum wage job. You know we believe in faith. And we believe in God. And letting it into God's hand and knowing that he will take care of us no matter what.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have 29 different employers that have come to help you find a job.

MARTINEZ: The Georgia National Guard has put together a job fair for the 877th.

WILEY: Thank you, ma'am. Have a good day.

MARTINEZ: Thomas is still waiting to hear if he got the convenience store job.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thanks for stopping by.

T. GOBER: They do seem eager to hire, but I mean, we'll see what they do here and what they do later.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Visit our Web site. MARTINEZ: While the 877th was deployed, a new nationwide effort to put veterans to work began. Job fairs run by the private sector and the military are now taking place across the country.

RIECKHOFF: I think there are a lot of folks right now that are jumping on the bandwagon. That's a good thing. But they need to not just jump on the bandwagon, they need to report back.

MURRAY: People are now conscious of hiring veterans. I think that's a great first step. I want to see the next step, which is really what our businesses are doing to really hire veterans and keep them there on the job.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Chase knows when you hire a veteran, you're hiring America's best.

MARTINEZ: In a hiring campaign led by JPMorgan Chase, 39 companies have pledged to hire veterans. Of the 100,000 jobbed pledged by 2020, 12,000 have been filled.

RIECKHOFF: You see a lot of stuff on TV. You hear about a lot of programs, but it's not getting down to the local community fast enough. And I'm traveling around meeting with our members, I still hear from people who are unemployed, who are underemployed. Who are struggling to make ends meet. And those numbers are way too high.

WILEY: I actually got my foot in the door with this one company. And I went -- I finally got to their fourth interview. And it was for a management position. And after looking at me and stuff, you know, asking about the guard, he asked me several times about the guard. So I knew he kind of -- you know, it kind of bothered him a little bit that I might be gone a while. Then he told me he didn't think I was right for the position.

Getting my resume ready for this interview I have today.

MARTINEZ: Chris Wiley cannot make ends meet delivering pizza. He's lined up an interview for another delivery job.

S. GOBER: When he came home, I kind of expected everybody to be knocking on our door wanting to offer jobs to not only my husband but other people in the unit, too.

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WILEY: I deliver beer. Never pictured myself as a beer man. Got to do what you got to do. I'm delivering beer during the day and pizza at night. I'm working both of my jobs, probably between -- anywhere from 70 to 80 hours a week, just to pay the bills.

MARTINEZ: Chris Wiley is still looking for that management job.

WILEY: I've ran fast food restaurants. I've been a warehouse manager, stock room manager, military. That's a lot of management there because you have to really control the troops. With that list, I figured I'd find something a lot faster than I did. But there's just -- everything is taken pretty much.

MARTINEZ: He's now enrolled in college.

WILEY: I'm going for business administration. I looked it up on the Internet. And it said business administration. That's about the best foot in.

MARTINEZ: Damon Boyd finally got the job he's been working for. And it's moving day.

D. BOYD: The job title is recruiting for the Army National Guard. It's a full-time position. The job will be in Augusta. I'm in Macon now. It's a three-hour move. But there's a lot more job opportunities there for my wife and everything, too. It will actually be a good move for us.

T. GOBER: See you in the morning.

MARTINEZ: Thomas Gober got the convenience store job. And is working the night shift.

T. GOBER: I make $10.99 an hour starting out. It doesn't pay nowhere near the deployment or active duty, but it's better than nothing. Definitely. The house, the power, the water, all those are must-pay. Everything else, you know, if you have the money.

MARTINEZ: The Gobers estimate that they are short $600 a month.

S. GOBER: The job that he's working at now, you don't need to know how to do a radar or learn how to build a bridge or fix a road. The type of certifications that he has through the military, he's not able to use in the civilian life. He has a job, and we're grateful for that. But as far as, like, the skills that he has, it's not being challenged.

RIECKHOFF: Underemployment is a huge issue. You've got many folks who are incredibly skilled and incredibly technically and tactically proficient, who are working as security guards or working the night shift at a convenience store. That is a wasted opportunity for our country.

T. GOBER: We have money in savings we're going to have to keep taking out of to pay the bills. But, you know, hopefully we'll be able to stop that when, you know, this summer when I start school.

MARTINEZ: Once Thomas starts school, the housing allowance from the post-9/11 G.I. Bill will help the Gobers pay the mortgage.

T. GOBER: I'm going to do automotive program to become an auto mechanic. Hopefully once I get done with that, I can get hired on and start a career.

MURRAY: I really fear that as these wars end that America will say, well, we're done with that. We cannot be done with this for years. We have to make sure that our men and women who come home have the support they need, that we help them reintegrate into their community, take care of their families.

C. MARCELIN: National Guard soldier, we know how to work hard, we know how to work smart together. We just have a lot of experience, and we bring a lot to the table.

WILEY: I really don't feel like I deserve more of a break. I know what I can do. And if these companies give me a chance to prove it, you know, I can show them.

T. GOBERS: I love being part of the army, the soldiers, the National Guard. A lot of times you pay prices for what you want to do, but as long as you love what you're doing, then I think it makes it OK.

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