A challenge on the home front

Posted: March 02, 2012

The nation's recent wars have had little direct impact on many Americans who aren't fighting them, while many active-duty service members have yet to face the effects of a failing economy. However, the one million men and women who make up our National Guard and Reserves - civilians who train to be ready in case the nation needs them - have faced the hardships of war as well as the economy. Americans can show these citizen warriors and their families our appreciation by ensuring they have job opportunities.

The service of guard and reserve members over the last 10 years has been critical to our security. They have deployed to many regions of the world and the country at unprecedented rates, taking part in the war against terrorism, humanitarian efforts, and natural disasters. Because these hometown heroes make up nearly half of our nation's military, with approximately 33,000 serving from Pennsylvania alone, the importance of their contribution and sacrifice is hard to overstate.

Since 2001, guard and reserve members have repeatedly put their civilian lives on hold for up to a year at a time to serve. Can you imagine the anxiety of telling your boss you'll need 12 months off? Or getting orders for another yearlong deployment just a year or two after returning?

Guard and reserve members are products of the U.S. military's world-class training. They bring integrity, global perspective, and proven leadership to the civilian workplace. They are mission-focused, possess a work ethic second to none, and have been tested under the harshest of circumstances. They have rebuilt structures in storm-ravaged disaster zones, treated the ill and injured in makeshift hospitals, and designed logistical plans for delivering lifesaving equipment to isolated outposts. And they are also, among other things, managers, administrators, lawyers, truck drivers, engineers, doctors, and teachers.

Employing guard and reserve members has its challenges. Employers share the burden of long deployments and absences from work. But most find the benefits far outweigh the obstacles and go out of their way to support such employees, knowing it is not only the smart thing to do, but also the right thing to do.

Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, a Defense Department agency, provides resources to guard and reserve members and their employers to help ensure a positive relationship. It promotes hiring, educates employers, resolves conflicts, and recognizes outstanding employer support with the help of state and territory committees and a network of volunteers.

The agency is cosponsoring a "Hiring Our Heroes" job fair at Philadelphia's Independence Seaport Museum today from 9 a.m. to noon. Part of the new Hero 2 Hired employment initiative, it will allow veterans, service members, guard and reserve members, and their spouses to meet employers interested in hiring them. The agency's Pennsylvania committee also plans to host a résumé-writing event on March 17 and 18 in Willow Grove.

Philadelphia has outstanding examples of supportive guard and reserve employers, but far too many service members are still unemployed or underemployed. In appreciation for all they do for us, let's do what we can for them.

Denise Gross is the Pennsylvania chair of Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve. For more information about the job fair, see HoH.GreatJob.net.

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