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1,500 Missouri veterans have been hired under state's Show-Me Heroes program
When it gets hot in the welding shop at Ole Hickory Pits, Justin Stuhr doesn't mind. He developed a tolerance for heat during the 15 months he spent at Fort Liberty in Iraq with the U.S. Army.
He was in the surge of 20,000 troops sent to Baghdad in 2007.
After three years of military service, he was part of a surge of people looking for work in a troubled economy.
"I didn't want to do school," he said. "I worked a few jobs here and there, but they couldn't offer me what I needed -- benefits and decent pay."
Stuhr found the job he was looking for at Ole Hickory Pits, one of 39 companies in Cape Girardeau, Perry and Bollinger counties that have pledged to hire veterans through Missouri's Show-Me Heroes program, which was launched in 2010.
Across Missouri, 1,834 companies have taken the Show-Me Heroes pledge and about 1,500 veterans have been hired by those companies, said Shams U. Chughtai, veterans program coordinator with the Missouri Department of Economic Development.
Businesses that take part in Show-Me Heroes work with Missouri Career Center veterans' representatives. When a veteran applies at one of the companies, the employers will give them an interview and a chance to prove they're right for the job.
One difficulty some veterans have in finding a job is that the training they receive while in the military isn't always recognized in the civilian world, said Ed Bagby, veterans representative at the Missouri Career Center.
For example, a mechanic or a truck driver trained in the military must still go to school to get a civilian certification, he said.
"The ones who really have a difficult time are those in the infantry training program. Those skills don't convert into anything that can be used in civilian life," Bagby said.
The unemployment rate for veterans who served on active duty following Sept. 11, 2001, referred to as Gulf War-era II veterans, was 12.1 percent in 2011, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That is higher than the jobless rate among all veterans, which was 8.3 percent.
Male veterans between the ages of 18 and 24 who served during the Gulf War era II had an unemployment rate of 29.1 percent in 2011, higher than the 17.6 percent unemployment among young male nonveterans.
Stuhr said although he believes employers in this area support veterans, he knows other former soldiers who have struggled because those doing the hiring had a biased view of the war in Iraq.
Ole Hickory Pits has hired eight veterans since the Show-Me Heroes program began. Three are currently working there.
"We've had some that have been deployed and others that have found new jobs," said Daniel Welker, production manager at Ole Hickory Pits.
When approached about the program by Bagby in Cape Girardeau, Welker said everything about the program sounded good to them.
"Most veterans are very skilled, qualified individuals. They make good employees and they have done so much for us. It's just our way of giving back," Welker said.
Tammy Baremore, owner of Missouri Plastics near Jackson, has hired several veterans through the program and has one currently working there.
"We support our troops 100 percent, whether they're on active duty or retired," she said. "We understand the value they bring to our company in experience and skills and years of knowledge."
A list of employers and more information on the program can be found at www.showmeheroes.mo.gov or by calling 1-800-592-6020.
333 N. Main Street, Cape Girardeau, MO