WAGUESPACK: Support Your Heroes, Hire a Veteran

This Thursday, at 8:46 a.m. EST, the names of 2,977 innocent men, women, and children murdered by terrorists in the horrific attacks of Sept. 11, 2011, will be read aloud at the National September 11 Memorial and Museum commemorating the 13th anniversary of 9/11. On this day we will never forget, more people lost their lives from a foreign attack on our homeland than any other day in our nation’s history.
 
The world has changed significantly since that tragic day, yet the threat of terrorism still exists and is growing. As the 9/11 Commission noted this summer, “The struggle against terrorism is far from over—rather, it has entered a new and dangerous phase.” Our nightly news shows are again filled with images of jihadists, the gathering of a global coalition, and preparations for military action against terrorists that seek the death and destruction of America and all we stand for.
 
While the faces of evil and stories of horror emerge from the Middle East, many of us thank God we live in a free nation where our children can sleep safely at night and never know the fears of children halfway across the world. However, for thousands of American families, these new threats mean months or years of separation, unimaginable risk, and danger as they directly confront terror in order to keep us safe at home. 

Nearly 3 million of our nation’s veterans served in the U.S. military since September 2001 – many of whom enlisted as a response to the 9/11 attacks. More than 315,000 veterans reside in Louisiana today, including nearly 50,000 who are under age 40. These men and women deserve our gratitude, respect, and support while they are fighting for us, just as much after they return home. 

We know the needs are great, as we continue to read about lengthy delays in accessing medical care and other challenges veterans face in the transition back to civilian life. But there is one area that businesses across our state can and are making a difference – extending opportunities for jobs to returning veterans.
 
Louisiana ranks No. 13 nationally for the percentage of veterans who are serving in the civilian labor force and a veteran’s unemployment rate of less than 5 percent.
 
Louisianans should be proud that numerous state laws seek to support veterans, including for example, guaranteed in-state tuition rates for all veterans, regardless of length of residency, which complements the federal Post-9/11 G.I. bill that can be used for four-year degrees as well as vocational training. Our state law further provides for no tuition and fees for surviving children and spouses of fallen veterans. Another state law passed in 2012 seeks to translate military training and experience into professional licenses and certification as efficiently as possible. The federal government has authorized tax credits for employers that hire veterans, and in Louisiana, veterans themselves enjoy a number of state tax exemptions as well.
 
LABI thanks all of our member companies, large and small, that actively seek to hire veterans each and every day. Some employers have even designed specialized recruitment and training initiatives, seeking veterans to fill major workforce needs as Louisiana undergoes a significant industrial expansion. Performance Contractors Inc. in Baton Rouge, for instance, has partnered with Fort Polk and the Central Louisiana Technical College to offer specialized training for military personnel in industrial construction trades such as welding and pipe fitting with the goal of hiring those who successfully complete the program. This creative approach led to a national award for Performance from the Construction Users Roundtable just last year.
 
On October 16, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., a number of LABI member companies will participate in a “Hiring Our Heroes” Job Fair at the Armed Forces Reserve Center in Baton Rouge at 8110 GSRI Road. There is no cost for employers or job seekers to participate, and the event is open to veterans, active duty military members, guard and reserve members, and military spouses. Both employers and job seekers can find more information and register to participate at www.labi.org/events.
 
When thinking of and praying for our veterans, one particular phrase often comes to mind:  “Freedom is not free.” As we honor the fallen this week and prepare for the future, let’s keep in mind the actions we can take here at home for our heroes and their families.  

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