Diversity In Recruiting – Returning Veterans

Apr 1, 2005

“A man (or woman) who is good enough to shed his blood for this country is good enough to be given a square deal afterwards. More than that no man is entitled to, and less than that, no man shall have.” Theodore Roosevelt

As the costly Iraqi conflict wears on, we are reminded daily, and many times tragically, of the enormous sacrifices made by our military forces. We make special efforts to let people know how much we appreciate the selflessness of our men and women in uniform. We wear flags on our jackets, post emblems on our cars, and proudly display the flag at our homes.

But what do we do to help our returning veterans make the transition to civilian life? How can people in our industry give advice and practical career direction to these heroic Americans when they come home and are looking for jobs? I have a friend, a cancer survivor, whose mantra when you tell him a problem or he hears about someone in trouble is, “What can I do to help?” We professional placement gurus certainly know the job market, the hot industries, the growth companies, the growing career paths we have to or we perish. Sharing this knowledge with returning GIs is one way to help. The objective of this article is to describe other ways to help.

At the risk of being accused of waving the flag or giving a sermon, let me describe a pet peeve. I’m old enough to remember the times in our country when returning military people were not only not honored, appreciated, and respected but were shunned, shamed, and slandered. Bad times. Disgraceful times. Terrible memories. Please, God, we as a nation have grown and learned how to appreciate those who make sacrifices for us. Now for the pet peeve.

I believe in the value of diversity without reservation. I embrace it in all its forms. Across America we celebrate all sorts of groups and events. The history and culture of almost every ethnic minority and majority (even the Irish) are honored in some way in many of our communities. We have diversity programs, multicultural celebrations, holidays, fiestas, and the like in our businesses and schools. There are festivities and galas to mark everything.

We want our children and our citizens to be culturally sensitive, welcoming, and inclusive. Great! That’s the way it should be. But, how about studying the history of, honoring, respecting, and appreciating the people who maintain and protect the four freedoms, our way of life and who defeated every “tyranny that would seek to enslave us?” Schools should not deprive our children of the value of learning about the “Greatest Generation.” One day each November just doesn’t do it.

I’ll end this ‘homily’ with a quotation and then get to the practical. Nicholas Provenzo, the founder and Chairman of the Center for the Advancement of Capitalism in a 2004 article entitled, Let Us Never Fail to Honor the Heroic Again, wrote:

The truth is we veterans are as much a part of the … community as any other group. Our military experiences make us unique; we are part of a fraternity not of race or of birth but of choice; we choose to affirm our freedom by serving in the nation’s armed forces. That commitment took us to the ends of the earth, separating us from families and loved ones and testing us in ways unimaginable to most: from tedium, to despair, to the elation many of us feel from being part of hard-won achievement.

The failure to learn about, commemorate, and thank our heroes, is wrong. Enough said.

Why hire veterans?

In a July 1999 article in The Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Tammy Joyner tells about a former Marine who underestimated how far his ten years in the military would take him in corporate America. “I didn’t think companies were looking for what I had,” said the twenty-eight year old decorated Desert Storm veteran. He was wrong. He got three job offers and today he is a manager at Photocircuits Corp. The general manager at Photocircuits tells us why, “These people hit the street running. Most job candidates stack up equally when it comes to the technical side of the job but the military vets often have the managerial edge. They’ve managed hundreds of people. They are responsible for tremendous budgets and similar maintenance-type issues that we face in industry.”

Most people who spent time in the military will tell you how much responsibility and accountability they had at a very early age. The same age groups in civilian jobs never experience the discipline, teamwork, skills in managing people and delegating tasks that our GIs do.

Returning veterans are the single largest source of prospective employees. About 180,000 of these well educated, highly motivated men and women enter the civilian job market every year. They are not casual job seekers, ‘tire kicker’, they are serious and mean business. Their military time has made them mature and responsible; they are used to working in an organization that expects them to meet high standards and to depend on teamwork to accomplish the mission. They are confident, know how to make decisions, self-reliant, know how to get the job done and get along with all types of people. James Webb, a former secretary of the Navy, had this to say about military service:

I wish we had more people in the country going through the military because it’s the greatest experience in the world in terms of helping you understand the cultural makeup of the country and how you can work together. Whether you’re in for three years or for 30, you take that back to your community, and you have a totally different understanding of this country by having served. There’s no greater thing a young person can do than to be responsible for other people in the military environment. It helps you to learn who you are, how to make decisions, and how to lead.


Thousands of websites provide career information and assistance to the returning veteran. The websites of many states detail training programs and job opportunities for veterans. The Department of Labor describes the laws and lists guides to the rights and considerations that must be afforded to military veterans Here are a few websites so you can help, too.

The Special Forces Search Engine:

U.S. Department of Labor Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS)


National Veterans Employment Assistance Service:

Recruit Military:

Quintessential Careers Job Transitioning for Vets and Former Military:

U.S. Veterans Employment Resources:

Military Exits:

We will end this article on returning veterans with quotes from two veterans who returned years ago.

It is the soldier, not the lawyer, who has given us the right to a free trial.

It is the soldier, not the reporter, who has given us the freedom of speech.

It is the soldier, not the poet, who has given us freedom of press.

It is the soldier, not the campus organizer, who has given us freedom to demonstrate.

It is the soldier, not the church, who has given us this precious freedom of worship.

It is the soldier, who consented to serve, who gives the objector, the freedom to conscientiously object.

It is the soldier, who defends the flag, salutes the flag, and whose dead body is draped by the flag in death, that gives us the freedom to spit on the flag, disrespect the flag, and burn the flag in protest.

Charles M. Province, a veteran of the US Army, is the sole and single Founder and President of the George S. Patton, Jr. Historical Society.

Who is a veteran?

He is the cop on the beat who spent six months in Saudi Arabia sweating two gallons a day making sure the armored personnel carriers didn’t run out of fuel.

He is the barroom loudmouth, dumber than five wooden planks, whose overgrown frat boy behavior is outweighed a hundred times in the cosmic scales by four hours of exquisite bravery near the 38th parallel.

She or he is the nurse who fought against futility and went to sleep sobbing every night for a solid year in DaNang.

He is the POW who went away one person and came back another, or hasn’t come back at all.

He is the Quantico Drill Instructor who has never seen combat but has saved countless lives by turning slouchy, no-account rednecks and gang members into marines and teaching them to watch each other’s backs.

He is the parade riding Legionnaire who pins on his ribbons and medals with a prosthetic hand.

He is the career quartermaster who watches the ribbons and medals pass him by.

He is the three anonymous heroes in The Tomb of the Unknowns whose presence at the Arlington National Cemetery must forever preserve the memory of all the anonymous heroes whose valor dies unrecognized with them on the battlefield or in the ocean’s sunless deep.

He is the old guy bagging groceries at the supermarket, palsied now and aggravatingly slow, who helped liberate a Nazi death camp and who wishes all day long that his wife were still alive to hold him when the nightmares come once more.

He is an ordinary and yet an extraordinary human being a person who offered some of his life’s most vital years in the service of his country, and who sacrificed his ambitions so others would not have to sacrifice theirs.

He is a soldier, a savior, a sword against the darkness, and he is nothing more than the finest, greatest testimony to and on behalf of the finest, greatest nation ever known.

So remember, each time you see someone who has served our country, just lean over and say, “Thank You.” That’s all most people need, and in most cases it will mean more than any medals they could have been awarded or were awarded.

Fr. Denis Edward O’Brien left the seminary in 1941 to join the Marine Corps. He fought in three campaigns, Gloucester, Peleliu and Okinawa. After the war he became a Maryknoll Missionary and served in Africa and Mexico; he died in 2002.


What does it take to persuade a potential client to hand over an assignment to you? We have given you the factors that go into the Cost-Per-Hire equation (TFL 6/98) and, by now, our readers should be well-schooled in the other techniques that go into selling a search or acquiring a client things we cover on an almost monthly basis. But the one elusive ingredient ignored by many is the cost of an unfilled job.

We had previously quoted corporate guru Dr. John Sullivan when, in an “industry prediction” survey in the Spring 1999 issue of Employment Management Today, his answer to the question: “If you could change one element of the recruiting function, what would it be? And why would it be so important to make the change?” was:

“It would be to target our efforts on top performers who are currently working and happy. Recruits who are easy to find are not what we want. If we don’t have to fight to get them . . . they aren’t the kind of people we really need.”

That, of course, is almost a mission statement for the search and recruiting business, even though that was not the context in which Dr. Sullivan made his remarks. Even so, he is an acclaimed observer and participant in the hiring practice arena and recently penned the following article covering this elusive topic. Add this arrow to your quiver to educate hirers about this vital topic.

Get articles like this
in your inbox
The longest running and most trusted source of information serving talent acquisition professionals.