GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Despite the dedication of U.S. Veterans, about one million are unemployed across the country, according to the House Committee of Veterans’ Affairs.
The 101st Airborne Association kicked off their national reunion Wednesday at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel in Grand Rapids. Several Veterans across generations there told FOX 17 that when they returned home from service they felt like unsung heroes.
“It takes you down memory lane, and sometimes it makes you cry, but it`s a good experience,” said Phillip Griglio, U.S. Veteran who served from 1965 to 1968.
With tears in his eyes, Griglio stood proudly in a 1942 version of a paratrooper`s uniform from World War II. He said it took him nearly a decade after returning home from service to regain a sense of normalcy; partly because of the difficulty finding work.
“We learned to keep low-key, especially in employment: during those days if you put your service you were apt not to get interviews,” said Griglio.
U.S. Veteran Bill Rovan said he knows first-hand the poor treatment soldiers endured after coming home from tours in Vietnam. He attested to the fact that Vietnam Veterans especially banded together to make sure future troops receive better treatment.
“Back then it was rocks and spit and things,” said Rovan. “Today it`s a handshake, a thank you. So, it worked out pretty well. I think we accomplished our mission there.”
But even today, some Veterans who`ve recently returned home tell FOX 17 that their inboxes are full of return emails from unanswered job applications.
“I`m just looking for something around here that I can go to and enjoy doing, and hopefully I don`t have to miss birthdays and anniversaries and things like that,” said Patrick Grysen, U.S. Veteran.
Grysen served the U.S. Army for seven years, then spent the last three in a diplomatic security position with the U.S. Consulate in Iraq. Despite Grysen’s experience, he said he’s been home in West Michigan looking for work for about one year.
“You get a lot of companies that`ll hold a position for 24-hours to let Veterans apply for them, and things like that,” said Grysen. “A majority of them are minimum wage, we need somebody to push a broom. When you get out, everybody wants something they can support their family on, and chance for advancement, that`s what they look for, and when they come out that`s what you`re offered.”
Over the years, companies have stepped up to the plate, looking to recruit men and women who served. But often times when Veterans like Grysen return home, they explain there are ample resources for them, but still face stigmas: perhaps an employer's misinterpretation of a PTSD diagnosis.
“There`s even a bigger stigma being a defense contractor working at a consulate; everybody thinks `Blackwater, you shoot civilians,’ then you don`t hear anything again,” said Grysen.
Early Wednesday evening, Grysen told FOX 17 that he accepted a security position with a local company. However, for other Veterans seeking employment, see some of the following resources: