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Veterans often struggle from armed forces to work force

Since Veterans Day fell on a Friday this year, many folks looked forward to a three-day weekend with friends and family, or just hoped to catch up on work around the house.

The legal holiday setting aside Nov. 11 was first honored in 1918 as Armistice Day, to commemorate the end of World War I. The Great War — or the War to End All Wars, as it was known to previous generations — actually ended on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918.

Nov. 11 has been the tradition ever since … well, except when Congress decided in 1968 to make the holiday fall on the last Monday of October, beginning with Oct. 25, 1971. Those of us who are old enough to remember those years may recall that many people insisted on celebrating our veterans on Nov. 11 anyway. Fortunately, wisdom prevailed, and on Sept. 30, 1975 the annual observance was restored, beginning in 1978.

By the luck of the calendar, this year, we got a three-day weekend — perfect for those who tend to link holidays with shopping. Several business publications have noted how Madison Avenue advertisers planned a veritable blitzkrieg of sales this year with resounding red, white and blue themes.

From cars to refrigerators to furniture and clothes, the advertisements were expected to be more patriotic than ever. Well, it is true that veterans fought for our free market economy — and your right to shop.

Perhaps recalling that armies travel on their stomachs, many restaurants offered free food to vets this Veterans Day.

That's OK, too. In 2009, there were approximately 21.9 million veterans in the United States. They all know what it's like to be hungry and they enjoy eating food.

However, perhaps the best way Americans can honor — and thank — our nation's veterans is by giving them a job.

On Tuesday, Nov. 8, Donna Miles wrote an article for the Department of Defense American Forces Press Service in which Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki noted that 850,000 veterans are currently unemployed.

For veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, the unemployment rate is 12.1 percent — 3 percent above the national average, according to the story.

That's about double the 6.2 percent unemployment rate in Carroll County.

Focusing our efforts to hire veterans in a slow economy is a tall marching order. But remember while you are enjoying this three-day weekend that some of our neighbors are fighting for their lives in far-off lands. Let's not take them for granted.

If you give a veteran a free meal, that's all fine, well and good. But if you can give a veteran a job, he or she might have a little less of a struggle to build a home or a family here back in the States.

For those of us who have benefited greatly from the service and sacrifice of veterans, perhaps the least we can do is to help them find a place for their next "tour of duty" — in the work force.

When he's not thanking veterans for our freedom of the press, Kevin Dayhoff may be reached at kevindayhoff@gmail.com

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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