With the U.S. making plans to shrink the military in Afghanistan, thousands of young veterans will be trying to find work, but high unemployment numbers for vets show the job hunt could be difficult when they come home.
Mike DeLaRosa is a member of the Army National Guard. After returning home from a tour in Kabul, Afghanistan, the transition from military life to civilian life was a challenge. He says, "I felt I was a step behind because I still wanted to go to college and I still want to finish up my degrees. The only thing that kept me balanced is I have military experience now, and I've been in situations that they're never going to experience."
He considers himself lucky compared to most veterans. After a month on the job hunt, he found one. But he's seen businesses be skeptical of hiring young veterans, employers often asking, "How is the military going to affect us and affect you. Are you planning on going off overseas again? Are you going to get deployed again?" he says.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports for 2011 the unemployment rate for veterans who served in the post 9/11 era is more than 12%, compared to 9% for the general population. These numbers are sending vets back to school in the stateline. Veteran affairs advisor Suzanne Swenson at Rock Valley College says she's averaged twenty calls this month from vets looking to sign up for the fall semester. "Oh, I get calls from all over. And sometimes I get calls from Afghanistan that Vets are coming back and they want to know what they can do and they're so excited about school," she says.
DeLaRosa is one of those veterans who plans to go back to school in the fall to finish his criminal justice degree in hopes to become a police officer.