Returning soldiers struggle to find jobs

TULSA - Serving overseas is undeniably tough and dangerous, but many Oklahoma soldiers say the real challenge occurs when they return home and start looking for a job.

When Travis Busby, a guardsman, returned from his service in Afghanistan, he knew re-joining the work force would be a challenge.

He was right.

A job working in a restaurant really didn't suit his style and only lasted a few months.

"Honestly, it's very rigorous especially in Tulsa," said Busby. "With everything going the way it is in the economy, most of the jobs that you find aren't worth working at. The pay isn't worth it or you're going to have to work 2 to 3 jobs to support you and your family."

Busby hopes for better luck with help from the Oklahoma National Guard's employment coordination program.

The program was started after guard officials realized 30 percent of returning soldiers were struggling to find employment.

"There was a significant number of soldiers that were either unemployed or underemployed, so we created a program internally to seek out employers that wanted to hire veterans and bring them together with the soldiers," said Lt. Col. Max Moss of the Oklahoma National Guard.

In addition to helping coordinate between soldiers and perspective employers, the guard also provides service members with resume support.

So far, it appears to be working.

The program has helped more than 200 citizen soldiers find jobs. The guard says now only about 1 in 10 returning soldiers needs help finding a job.

Pfc. Joshua Matthews found work as an electrician, a position he trained for while serving in Afghanistan.

"I'm one of those people, I have to work with my hands. I have to keep busy throughout the day," said Matthews.

Matthews know he's fortunate and hopes his fellow soldiers will be able to find a job they enjoy too.

"It's one of the most stressful things because we'll go straight from worrying about staying alive and protecting our country, coming back to worrying about providing for ourselves and our families," said Matthews.

The Oklahoma National Guard held a job fair for veterans on Saturday.

Twenty businesses and organizations participated. They include: Solavei, Tulsa Community College, G4S Security, Tulsa Welding School, EMSA, Hoffmeier, Tulsa Police, Lowes, Workforce Oklahoma, Zink, Loomis, Magellen, TSA, Muskogee VA, State Farm, GCC, TCSO, Melton Truck Lines/Conexus, Transportation Connection and Vet Center.

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