Veteran Unemployment – A Navy Vet’s Journey

Hello friends!  Let me introduce myself.

I am, Mark, Julie’s husband and this is my introductory blog post on Savvy Homemaking. (Yes, I hear the cheers and clapping from the blogosphere!)  Thank you for the warm welcome.  For the past 13 years, I served as a Russian Linguist and Consecutive Russian Interpreter for the Navy.  After spending a lot of time away from the family (a family which continues to grow, by the grace of God) I felt called to separate from the Navy and walk with God on an intimidating journey to the unknown: a life outside of the military.  I will be sharing with you my perspective on issues which are directly affecting our family – Veteran Unemployment, Homeschooling, Full-time RV Living (see initial post here), and much more.  So, I hope you will enjoy a little bit of testosterone in your blog-dose from Savvy Homemaking.

 

Mark in Dress Blues on US Navy ShipVeteran unemployment is currently affecting approximately 750,000 former service-members; and I am one of them.  The situation is not projected to get any better anytime in the foreseeable future.  Just recently, the Pentagon released plans of downsizing the U.S. military by 100,000 troops! (read the article here)  I did the math (and I am no rocket scientist…but I did work with a lot of them, so do I get brownie points?) and that means that a whopping 850,000 veterans will be looking for work in their post-military life. What is a veteran to do?

The situation forces us veterans to think outside of the box.  When I separated from the Navy, I thought that it would be relatively easy to land my next job. I thought, maybe my next job would be with the local police department or a federal law enforcement agency, or maybe even a job in the Oil Industry. Having served as a consecutive Russian diplomatic interpreter for the State Department in Geneva, for the Department of Defense in Moscow, Washington, D.C., and in many other places, I had a reasonable amount of optimism that my resume would guarantee me a slot in some company…somewhere. After separation and the completion of nearly 13 years in the U.S. Navy, I learned that my expectations could not have been further from the truth.

Facetime on iPads during military deploymentWhen I applied to the local Police Department, they kept asking me why someone with my background would want to ever want to work at their Police Department, insinuating that I was over-qualified for “simple police work”.  Frustrated at the line of questioning, I spoke with a dear friend of mine who is a senior FBI Special Agent.  He explained to me that the police department’s concern is most likely that of finances.  The police department assessed the likelihood that after spending approximately $100,000 on training me at the police academy and getting me qualified for police duties, I would then take a higher paying job in Federal Law Enforcement.  After the third time of explaining that my career ambitions were now (1) centered around being home more than being away and (2) actually doing a different job which would challenge me to continue to grow (plus the perk of having a police car to take home and not have a commute everyday), I quickly realized that maybe I was barking up the wrong tree.  I wanted to work somewhere where I felt like I had value in a team; that my past experience would be a benefit, not a hindrance.

Battlefields to Oilfields Banner
I then began to research industries which were actually interested in hiring Military Veterans. I applied to several federal law enforcement agencies, but as you may know, the federal hiring system (USAJobs.gov) can be painfully slow! Sean Hannity mentioned the oil industry as a viable option for military veterans and I caught several radio broadcasts of his interviewing a military veteran who had a success story transitioning into the oil industry.  That got me looking into vocational rehabilitation programs which eventually led me to a program called “Battlefields to Oilfields” (http://battlefieldstooilfields.com).

Fire Fighting Training at Battlefields to OilfieldsIn March of 2014, I got in my Toyota Prius and drove nearly 1,000 miles from the outskirts of D.C. to Morgan City, LA! I spent one month at Battlefields to Oilfields and learned how to be an effective Safety Technician in the Oil Industry (on-shore or off-shore). Upon graduation from the program, I earned over 40 certifications and trainings to include my certification as a Safety Technician and interviewed with nearly 30 companies. The program was AMAZING, FUN, and I highly recommend it to any veteran looking to get employed in the oil industry!  It was completely covered by my Post 9/11 GI Bill and it provided some much needed influx of funds into my bank account for the month that I was there.  Unfortunately, not one company seemed serious about hiring me. There were several from my class who did get job offers, but one or two of us did not.  During two special job fairs which were set up specifically for the students of the program, I had several recruiters from big and small companies chuckling right in front of me when they read my resume and tried to picture “a former diplomatic interpreter” with 13 years of experience working with National Security affairs then switching gears to work in their company. What was the problem? The same problem that so many military veterans face today: having such strong “soft-skills” (e.g. leadership, project management experience, etc.) that make companies want to place the veteran in a management position, but not enough experience in their given industry to have “the hard-skills” (i.e. the vocational technical skills that those not in management use during their workday), to confidently place the veteran in a management position.  Therefore, companies continue to hire the less-experienced / potentially less-“soft-skilled” veteran with the hope that another company will eventually hire the veteran they did not hire.

But we are survivors!  We sold our house in Northern Virginia.  Paid off all of our debts.  We literally donated half of our possessions to make the move into my Mother-in-Law’s house that much easier.  After being unemployed for nearly six months and living with my entire family in my Mother-in-Law’s house, I realized that something had to change. For several years, we have seen how God has continued to move our family down the road towards being prepared for tough times which may lie ahead.  It wasn’t all that long ago when Julie approached me about moving into a motor-home or a travel trailer and living “off the grid” until I get a job, or until her blog brings in enough income to offset living expenses which would allow us to resume our “normal way of life”. I remember saying to her, “Voluntary poverty is not one of my gifts.” (She has reminded me over and over throughout our years of marriage that she would be more than happy to live without; I was just not so willing.)

Upcoming Blog Post: Moving From 1800 sq. ft. to 240!

Our House In Virginia 2008 Keystone Outback Sydney Edition

 

Are you or your spouse a Military Veteran who experienced difficulty finding a second career? How did you meet the challenge?

Leave your comments below.

  • Tamra

    I look forward to following you and your wife on this journey. I am amazed to know that someone that could give 13 years of his life to protect our country, would not be offered a job that he is qualified to do. I suspect that this new chapter in your family life will be filled with blessing you could not imagine.

  • Nan Derry

    Loved both blogs!!!

  • http://ifyoudostuff.blogspot.com Rhonda

    My husband was medically discharged from the USMC right after Dessert Storm. He had a very difficult time finding a job as at the same time, we inherited some land in Oklahoma that we wanted to live on. He was unemployed for 6 months then worked at Walmart making just a little over minimum wage for 2 years with no benefits. He finally got a job in his field, mechanics, and has been there for 20 years. Physically, doing a blue collar job with his bad knees, has been very hard on him. He has had 6 knee surgeries since discharge and 2 before. The VA has raised his disability rate and pay to a higher number but not high enough for us to live on, and we live simply.
    The VA does a horrible job taking care of Veterans and when they do help the Veteran, the wait is ridiculously long.
    Why our elected politicians let the VA do this is beyond me.
    I think employers don’t want to hire Veterans because they believe everyone of them has PTS.
    Americans talk about being patriotic but they don’t seem to be bothered that America is letting down the Veterans that served to keep us all safe.

    I do wish you and your family the very best! I hope you will all thrive and not suffer by being typecast as a PTS vet with too much baggage.

    • http://www.savvyhomemaking.com JulieFilter

      Thanks Rhonda, and I’m sorry to hear about your own struggles after separating from the military. It stinks that families feel stuck in the military for 20+ years because of this kind of breakdown in economic feasibility. Thankfully, The Lord is providing and we trust Him implicitly for whatever we are led to do…prayerfully we will soon hear back some positive results to SOME job applied for. We will for sure keep everyone up to date with how things go and how we move along with all of this. God bless!

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