Vets honored at Capitol dome as others hunt for jobs

Friday, November 12, 2010

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Veterans Day in the state capital, a day of remembrance and reality.

While about 100 Missourians gathered under the Capitol dome to honor veterans, another hundred or so walked the aisles of a National Guard armory, less than a mile away, looking for a new job.

Under the dome, Don Hentges, the commander of a local VFW post, a Vietnam veteran, talked about the day's significance to him.

"This is a good day to remember," Hentges said. "Remember my time in the service, and remember a lot of those fellas that didn't make it home with us."

The remembrance comes hard for Col. Glenn Hagler, chief of staff for the Missouri National Guard, who choked back tears as he remembers friends and co-workers who died in the Sept. 11, 2001, attack on the Pentagon.

"My brothers and sisters in arms lay dead in the pressure and the fire and debris which was accelerated beyond the speed of sound as tons of aircraft aluminum and jet fuel crashed into that building," Hagler told the crowd at the Capitol rotunda.

At the end of the month, Hagler noticed he had been given an extra $150 for that day's service, combat pay.

"On that day, I gained some additional focus as a soldier," Hagler said. "I and my colleagues and these young men and women who serve with us and who you stand beside, we will do anything, we will sacrifice everything, we will take up arms anywhere, to prevent American servicemen from earning combat pay on American soil."

At the armory, Jeremy Amick, a Coast Guard reserve officer and U.S. Labor Department employee who organizes the jobs fair each Veterans Day, looked out across the armory floor at the three dozen or so tables, staffed by employers from the U.S. State Department to the Cargill turkey processing plant.

"This is a good day for this because it allows our veterans who are unemployed, or underemployed to come out on what's a day off for most people and talk to potential employers," Amick said.

Making the transition from active service to the civilian routine can take some time, but veterans bring valuable assets to the work world, he said.

"The military career has a different mind set from the civilian world," Amick said. "This takes a little bit of time to transition to a new type of structure."

Glenn Brown of Holts Summit is still trying to make his way through that transition. Brown served six years in the Navy, using his military pay and education incentives to earn an engineering degree from the University of Missouri-Rolla in 2006. He's been through a couple of layoffs with civilian companies and has been mostly unemployed since 2008. He's been to this particular jobs fair at least a couple of times already.

Brown admitted to getting frustrated with the lack of jobs for someone with his skills. Still, he feels his background will serve him well with perspective employees.

"These employers know that with a veteran, you've got somebody with experience, somebody that's going to show up on time, he's going to do the job," Brown said. "That's why these events are so big."

Outside of the armory, Pat Tomaszewski and her crew from the USO have set up a couple of food wagons to serve up some hospitality for job seekers and their families.

"The military runs in my family, my dad, uncles, cousins, all served in the military," Tomaszewski said. "This is my way of serving, traveling all over Missouri helping out military families any way we can."

She told the story of a former military man she met earlier in the day, unemployed, with three young children at home.

"We loaded him up with a big basket of goodies," Tomaszewski said. "There's just so many military and ex-military families struggling these days ... we do what we can to help them."

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