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Ray Duckler: When Johnny comes marching home, will a job be waiting?

  • From left: Geno Anctil of Manchester plays with his dogs, Poodle and Maggie, as his wife Victoria Anctil and daughter Claire Trottier, 3, sit nearby in their home in Manchester on Friday, Aug. 9, 2013. Geno Anctil served in the U.S. Navy for nine years (2000-2009) with tours in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Mediterranean. He now works as Southern New Hampshire University's military career advisor, helping student veterans transition from military to civilian life. <br/><br/>(TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff)

    From left: Geno Anctil of Manchester plays with his dogs, Poodle and Maggie, as his wife Victoria Anctil and daughter Claire Trottier, 3, sit nearby in their home in Manchester on Friday, Aug. 9, 2013. Geno Anctil served in the U.S. Navy for nine years (2000-2009) with tours in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Mediterranean. He now works as Southern New Hampshire University's military career advisor, helping student veterans transition from military to civilian life.

    (TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff)

  • Geno Anctil of Manchester served in the U.S. Navy for nine years (2000-2009) with tours in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Mediterranean. He now works as Southern New Hampshire University's military career advisor, helping student veterans transition from military to civilian life. <br/><br/>(TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff)

    Geno Anctil of Manchester served in the U.S. Navy for nine years (2000-2009) with tours in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Mediterranean. He now works as Southern New Hampshire University's military career advisor, helping student veterans transition from military to civilian life.

    (TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff)

  • Geno Anctil of Manchester works in his office at Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester on Friday, Aug. 9, 2013. Geno Anctil served in the U.S. Navy for nine years (2000-2009) with tours in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Mediterranean. He now works as Southern New Hampshire University's military career advisor, helping student veterans transition from military to civilian life. <br/><br/>(TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff)

    Geno Anctil of Manchester works in his office at Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester on Friday, Aug. 9, 2013. Geno Anctil served in the U.S. Navy for nine years (2000-2009) with tours in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Mediterranean. He now works as Southern New Hampshire University's military career advisor, helping student veterans transition from military to civilian life.

    (TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff)

  • From left: Geno Anctil of Manchester plays with his dogs, Poodle and Maggie, as his wife Victoria Anctil and daughter Claire Trottier, 3, sit nearby in their home in Manchester on Friday, Aug. 9, 2013. Geno Anctil served in the U.S. Navy for nine years (2000-2009) with tours in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Mediterranean. He now works as Southern New Hampshire University's military career advisor, helping student veterans transition from military to civilian life. <br/><br/>(TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff)
  • Geno Anctil of Manchester served in the U.S. Navy for nine years (2000-2009) with tours in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Mediterranean. He now works as Southern New Hampshire University's military career advisor, helping student veterans transition from military to civilian life. <br/><br/>(TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff)
  • Geno Anctil of Manchester works in his office at Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester on Friday, Aug. 9, 2013. Geno Anctil served in the U.S. Navy for nine years (2000-2009) with tours in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Mediterranean. He now works as Southern New Hampshire University's military career advisor, helping student veterans transition from military to civilian life. <br/><br/>(TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff)

Maybe this has happened to you.

Veterans, in fact, are counting on it.

They hope you’ve remembered them while enjoying good times, time with family and friends, time at the movies, time hiking or biking or eating turkey at Thanksgiving.

They hope you appreciate that you have a job, a paycheck, dignity, self respect.

They hope you’ll think of these things if you have a job opening, because once they’re done eating sand and roasting under the sun in a Middle Eastern city that you can’t pronounce, they may need a boost once they get home.

They may need a job.

“This is a great time for the state of New Hampshire to say thank you for your service,” said state Sen. Sharon Carson, a Londonderry Republican. “We look at the type of training that veterans receive, and they are just part of a great employment pool, not only for the state, but for other employers as well.”

Carson, who served in the Army for two years, and three other lawmakers met at the State House recently to discuss a bill they’re sponsoring that they hope will one day open the job market wider to veterans. The legislation proposes preferential treatment to veterans for all state jobs, not just some, as is currently on the books.

If two candidates show equal qualifications for a post, the law will say the veteran will get it.

One member of the group, Rep. Linda Lauer, a Bath Democrat, taught at the Naval Academy for five years. Her niece’s husband was killed in Afghanistan. Her sister and brother-in-law were in the Army, and their son lost most of his hearing in Iraq.

In other words, preferential treatment hits home with her.

“You learn skills in the military,” Lauer said. “You learn to work as a team.”

The legislation isn’t the only effort under way to help veterans land a job. Elsewhere, a program called the 100,000 Jobs Mission, a coalition of leading companies nationwide, aims to hire 100,000 returning vets by 2020. And a day after the organizational meeting at the State House, at the National Guard Armory in Nashua, a job fair called “Hiring our Heroes” featured 62 businesses, each with a table, a sign, brochures and an opening.

The fair was open to all, but it focused on returning veterans.

Like Geno Anctil, 32, of Manchester.

He’s a career adviser at Southern New Hampshire University, on the lookout for opportunities for his students who are making the switch to civilian life. He’s also curious about what’s out there for himself, saying, “I need to enhance my own career as well.”

You going to turn this guy down?

The navy corpsman and search-and-rescue swimmer who swam to save lives in the Arabian Sea after Sept. 11, who, under fire, tended to wounded soldiers in Iraq, rehydrating them and administering intravenous feeding and patching bullet wounds before a helicopter could get them the heck out of there, who dismantled improvised explosive devices on forgotten, dusty roads?

That guy?

Anctil went only so far with what he’d seen, saying, “I don’t really talk too much about it. It’s traumatic, and it brings back memories that I don’t want really want to remember sometimes.”

He’s not complaining, mind you, and says he appreciates what the state does for veterans. Like the money given to them when they return, and the tax break first-time home buyers receive.

“I think it’s great,” Anctil said, “and New Hampshire supports its veterans.”

And now, Robert Wilkinson of Nashua needs some support.

He went to the fair dressed in a razor-sharp dark suit. He has two college degrees and is working on a third. He served nine years of active duty in the Army, splitting time between military intelligence and as a commissioned officer.

He was recently stationed somewhere in the Middle East (he wouldn’t say where), an 11-month deployment that kept him away from his wife and child.

He remains in the reserves, but he needs a job, now that he’s retired from active duty. He has a teaching certificate and currently tutors kids in math. He has a business degree. But he hasn’t stayed in one civilian job for very long, and he says this hurts him in the job market.

His benefits run out soon.

And he and his wife have since had a second child.

“A lot of companies train you when you get there, so it doesn’t make sense why they would ask for five or 10 years of experience,” said Wilkinson, 43. “It can be very frustrating, and it’s very depressing sometimes.”

Nathan Paddock lives in Las Vegas, but he grew up in Franklin. He wants to return there next summer, once he reaches his 20th year in the Air Force and can retire. He’s worked in this country and abroad, in Germany and Africa.

He’s here with his wife and three kids, visiting family in Laconia. He’s also here looking for a job, planning ahead for his retirement. He attended a resume-building workshop the morning of the job fair, then networked with the representatives in the high-ceilinged, humid armory.

A lieutenant colonel with a master’s degree in information technology, Paddock feels confident he can land a job within the next few months.

But he is concerned.

For others.

“From what I’ve seen, this is a really good turnout, and I really appreciate that they do this,” Paddock said. “But I do worry about the veterans who come back with injuries and with handicaps, and what opportunities will be available to them.”

The next legislative meeting to discuss the proposal is Aug. 28. State agency administrators and military people will attend to help carve out a policy.

I asked Wilkinson if he felt appreciated by the civilian population.

“I think there are some people who genuinely appreciate your service, and there are others who don’t,” he said. “They may all say that they do, say thank you, but a lot of times you can tell when they’re sincere, or they’re just saying it because maybe it’s the politically correct thing to do.”

I’ll try to remember that, especially during the holidays.

When I ask a loved one to pass the turkey.

(Ray Duckler can be reached at 369-3304 or rduckler@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @rayduckler.)

Legacy Comments1

Good luck Vets, by the time you get home, you will probably be competing with 20 million new citizens for that job.

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