Troops Return Home for Winter Break
Troops Return Home for Winter Break
By Meghan McKeon
For most, winter break means going home and spending time with our loved ones for the holidays, reuniting with friends, and taking a break from the stress of college life. This year however, winter break also means the return of thousands of troops from Iraq. According to an announcement made by President Obama, by December 31,2011, over 40,000 troops will be returning from Iraq after almost a decade of servitude. Although this news is a relief to families of American troops, it also raises several questions: What does this mean for Iraq? Are returning troops going to be able to find employment?
With a disappearing American presence in Iraq comes an end of one chapter and the beginning of a new one where Iraq is now faced with the issue of standing on its own two feet. American troops served as a crutch for Iraq as they began to rebuild its government and political system. Many officials fear life without America’s presence, which often guaranteed protection from the actions of a “predatory” Shiite government. Despite speculation of abandonment, the United States has made it clear that their presence will not be completely erased. Jim Jeffery, the United States ambassador for Iraq, will have about 16,000 government employees and contractors working there to provide training for law enforcement officials, infrastructure, and job training. The only difference this time around is that there will be no American military presence. Military officers and defense secretaries have contested this decision but the president is steadfast in his decision to withdraw troops. At this point it is too late to back out from his promise, and the time has also come for Iraq to experience true sovereignty. I am sure if things were to get out of hand within the Iraqi government, America would be quick to step in. Yet, for now it is time to focus on our own problems like getting our troops home safely, the economy, healthcare, and employment.
As if adjusting back to civilian life is not hard enough, returning soldiers also face the nightmare of finding employment. As of October 2011, the unemployment rate among veterans was 12.1% and compared to the U.S overall unemployment rate of 9%, the chances of finding employment are not in favor of returning soldiers. A majority of those who enlist do so right after high school, so that they can go to college, and earn a degree, but in the midst of serving the country and going to school, where does that leave room for a part-time/full time job? If the lack of job experience does not stifle chances of employment, the translation of their skills learned during service into civilian life will. The lack of understanding among employers and veterans has a huge influence on their chance of employment. For example, being a squad leader translates into entry-level management, but it is difficult for employers to comprehend that. There are programs in the military to help veterans transition back into civilian life and find employment, but in the job market today, there are slim pickings for jobs and unfortunately those who served to defend out freedom may have to resort to working minimum wage jobs until something better arises. There is hope however, for employment in Green Energy production with wind and solar energy products. A Columbus based solar power company has begun hiring only military veterans for its installation crews, putting to use the skills they learned during service to aid in the renewable energy movement. This is a great step forward and we can only hope that the situation gets better for the soldiers returning at the end of the year.
By bringing our troops home, America is taking a great step forward, and a huge weight is being lifted off of millions of families, but for others the struggle has just begun. Between issues of unemployment in America and relations in Iraq, there is still a lot of work to be done.