South Florida veterans call on will, discipline in job hunt
In the Iraqi village of Anah, Cpl. Brandon Sheppard was working his job as a U.S. Marine Corps infantryman, patrolling a marketplace when a bomb went off and knocked him to the ground.Wounded in both legs by shrapnel, Sheppard was flown to a military hospital in Germany, and underwent weeks of gruelling therapy.
Now, six years later, the 29-year-old Sunrise man faces another daunting mission: finding a civilian world job in the midst of a struggling economy.
"The first thing I offer is integrity," said Sheppard, one of more than 100 South Florida military veterans who showed up Thursday morning for a job fair at the Miami Vet Center. "I am looking for work with the same values that Marines live by — honor, courage and commitment."
Sheppard, who graduated last month from Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton with a degree in business, may have a future with the Veterans Administration, one of several potential employers he met with.
And although nothing is certain, he said, "In a couple of years, I see myself in an office, making a living and having a nice life. Like I say to my fellow Marines, if you get knocked down seven, get up eight."
Historically, the unemployment rate among veterans has been slightly lower than for non-veterans. But for the post-Sept. 11 generation, that is no longer true.
Unemployment among veterans who served in Afghanistan and Iraq runs higher than the national average, at 12.7 percent in May compared with 8.2 percent for the general population, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
"Many of the veterans we see are not sure what they want to do," said Patrick Murphy, Vet Center team leader. "Job fairs can give them a sense of what's possible, and help them envision a dream they don't quite see yet."
Among the 20 firms represented at the half-day fair were Marriott, Florida Power & Light, Home Depot, Loews Hotel, Ocean Bank and AFLAC.
"We have been very impressed with the people we saw today," said City National Bank recruiter Lichelle Jurado. "They are focused."
Rose St. Amand, 24, a Miramar resident who just finished a four-year Navy tour two weeks ago, counted on those qualities to help her land a security job while she finishes college. She interviewed with 50 State Security Service.
"I think our maturity level can help us, and our discipline," said St. Amand, whose military job was serving as a bodyguard for unarmed Navy chaplains. "For example, if I have a job that starts at 7 a.m., I'll be there at 0645 hours."