Not Every Veteran is Broken

The wounds of Veterans, both physical and mental, are real and have widespread effects on Veterans and their families.  I applaud the efforts of the Department of Veterans Affairs as well as private entities to help these men and women, and their families, on the long road to recovery.  Not a day passes that I’m ungrateful for my health after four years in the Navy.

With that being said, I believe Veterans are a proud breed of Americans.  We don’t like hearing “it can’t be done” or “that’s just not possible”.  With limited resources, personnel, or funding, we were trained to make things happen.  And we did.  This instilled a certain pride in us that we can and will achieve the so called “impossible.”

It bothers me when I see the staggering statistics about unemployment among my fellow Veterans.  There are a plethora of factors that contribute to this, but it’s difficult to pinpoint the root cause.  Some cite the inability for employers to recognize how work experience in the military transfers to the civilian world.  Some say employers are worried about the mental health of Veterans.  Roughly seven percent of Americans are Veterans, and less than one percent are currently serving.  With this kind of data, it’s understandable why employers can’t relate.

The concern employers express over the mental health of a veteran is nothing more than a social stigma.  Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a very serious issue, and Veterans who are suffering should not feel shame in seeking counseling.  While PTSD is nothing new to Veterans, the publicity it’s received in the last decade has propelled the word to be synonymous with Veteran.  This is an unfortunate and untrue association of words.  The number of Veterans that I know who are healthy, motivated and intelligent individuals far supersedes the amount of Vets I know with PTSD.

The skills Veterans learn through military training can give us a significant advantage in many professions. We embody the idea of teamwork, motivation and problem solving.  I think it’s absolutely astonishing that employers would rather hire a college graduate with little experience over a Veteran who has real-world experience.

This is where Veterans have an opportunity to change things.  Leadership, troubleshooting and organization, all gained from the military, are key attributes to successful entrepreneurial endeavors. Veterans who are creating jobs have a unique ability to recognize the talent of other veterans, and employ them.  The employment of veterans puts some of our hardest working, brightest and most talented Americans back in the workplace, where they’re truly appreciated.

Entrepreneurial initiatives in the U.S. are vital to job creation and economic stimulation.  According to the U.S. Census Bureau, from 1980 to 2005, firms less than five years old created all net job growth in the U.S.  Another interesting fact: more than half of the companies on the Fortune 500 list in 2009 were launched during a bear market or recession.  This includes companies like Apple, Microsoft, IBM, Adobe, Johnson & Johnson and Kraft, to name a few.

Veterans have access to a one of a kind program, which will help guide them through the creation and development of a business.  Veteran Entrepreneur Transfer Inc., a Milwaukee-based business accelerator, provides assistance to veterans wishing to start a business through the use of mentoring and training.  VETransfer also provides guidance in the planning, testing and implementation of a product or service to a veteran. This is a great program for Veterans, both locally and nationally, who aspire to be their own boss.

The military lifestyle is undoubtedly a contributing factor to the success of Veteran owned businesses.  Vets are 45 percent more likely to start a business than non-veterans.  Veteran-owned businesses account for about 9 percent of all small businesses and they grossed $1.2 trillion in profit in 2007.

The resources required to help are available, and hiring yourself to fulfill your dream job can be accomplished.  Put the skills acquired during your time in the military to use by running your own business.

Chris Lang, a U.S. Navy Veteran, is the assistant communication manger at Veteran Entrepreneurial Transfer, a non-profit business accelerator for Veterans.

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6 Comments to “Not Every Veteran is Broken”

  1. Dan F says:

    I have PTSD, so I guess I am one of the vets that stigmatizes other veterans. I would like to remind this non-combat veteran that it took us Vietnam vets years to have the VA recognize that PTSD is real. When we came home, no one thanked us for our service. Quite the opposite. We were stigmatized by just being veterans. Yet, somehow we survived and most of us never received a dime of help from the VA until 30 or 40 years after the war. I raised a family, never was arrested and lived silently with my hell until I lost everything because I could no longer mask the symptoms.

    I do not begrudge our new veterans the help they are deservedly receiving. That is what the Vietnam vets’ legacy is; that is to never again will we allow a veteran to be treated like we were. However, saying that all veterans are stigmatized by those of us that have PTSD is just plain cruel.

  2. nelson nolasco says:

    if this statement who obviously was the media that made it is true then what about our nations POLICE, FIRE depts and OEM or CIA or FBI, DIPLOMATS and AMBASSADORS
    does that mean that they are broken too it amazes me how the media today can make a statement and condemn any part of our government and sway the opinion of the american people we are all tasked with the welfare and security of this great nation and to those people in the media i say talk to us instead of making assumptions to sell a newspaper or plaster it all over the tv you’ll find out that we are humans capable of making mistakes sometimes costly ones that we have to live with for the rest of our lives so please before you pass judgement on us walk a mile in our shoes.

    sincerely

    SGT Nelson E. Nolasco NJARNG ( ret )

  3. R. K. Mitchell says:

    Are you suggesting that Veterans with PTSD are not healthy, not motivated and unintelligent. You may not have intended this to be intrepreted like this, however, this too follows the “stigma”. My husband of almost thirty years, if given the opportunity, and or could take advantage, in the “good” way of opportunities, now offered when they were not in the 1970′s and 80′s, our life would have been very different.
    As mentionened in your article, he was in business for himself, but when he needed help and or support, it was not there for him. He was one of the Veterans that had the horrible experiences of returning and being spit in the face, because he was a Vietnam Veteran. We still “walk around on eggshells”, when the subject of his or anyone else’s PTSD comes up. We continue to re-live the effect of his PTSD on our family. It really isn’t just my husband who experiences the symptoms, but all three of us, myself, my husband, and our son, have to live with the devestating effects of this long term,( like forever), condition. It continues to be a fight for his rights for all that he, we have lost, and continues to effect our lives. It has been so very difficult, even after a proper diagnosis, just to be able to get the medication that keeps him “healthy”, namely LEXAPRO, which to this day is still denied to our vets whose suffering continues. However, I am not saying he is unhealthy, unmotivated, and unintelligent. This is quite the contrary, however adjustments have had to be made, for all of us.

    • veterans wife says:

      I know exactly what your saying. I’ve lived it for 21years, along with our son. It truely is an adjustment for everyone and not easy on anyone but at least they are finally recognizing these vietnam veterans and how they were treated and misdiagnoised They have been suffering in silence for many years, just trying to live the best way they know how. I think maybe thats why the recovery is so difficult and challenging. I would think if you do something to help these vets from the beginning , possibly the chances for recovery might be less complicated. I know first handed what you mean by “walking around on eggshells” and i really dont think unless someone has lived it everyday , they cant understand what it truely is like. I still to this day cant talk about my husbands firefights or anything from Vietnam, without him getting extremely upset. So i tiptoe around life and also just try to get by. I hope all veterans/families get the help they need,

  4. Great post. There is definitely a stigma attached to hiring veterans after they return to civilian life in the real world. This is definitely revved up by the media as often they portray veterans in a negative light. The fact of the matter is that veterans are some of the most hard working, skilled, and dedicated people that you can employ. What they learn in their training with regards to leadership and work ethic can be translated into effective skill sets in the business world. I do think though the government should also start doing more to see that veterans have an easy transition back into civilian life with more job opportunities. Something like giving tax breaks to employers that do hire veterans and other similar things could probably go a long way. I do agree with you though that this stigma is definitely unjust.