Monday is Veterans Day, a recognized holiday roots of which date back to 1919, the end of World War I. It became an official federal holiday in 1938, then known as Armistice Day.
In 1954, however, with the end of World War II and a nod to the fighting in Korea, Congress changed the name to Veterans Day “to honor American veterans of all wars,” according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
As time passes, it seems that more and more emphasis is put on living veterans instead of only those who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of America’s ideals, freedoms and way of life.
This change is not a bad thing; we believe it is happening, in part, because fewer American military service members are being killed in action. Part of this is due to improved technology, whereby fewer personnel are being put in harm’s way. Another part is due to improved, and often vastly superior, combat operations and planning.
Regardless, the result is an increase of surviving veterans. The question is, what are they to do once they are finished serving their country? How much, exactly, does America owe them in return for what they have sacrificed? How much does North Carolina, and Richmond County, owe them?
A new part of the answer is the North Carolina Department of Commerce’s Division of Workforce Solutions. Through Benjamin Thomas, veterans program supervisor, the state is working to connect veterans with employers seeking to fill vacancies.
Thomas has served Scotland County as veteran program supervisor since 2004. He’s new to Richmond County — he made his first work-related appearance on Election Day — but his timing couldn’t be better.
Using August figures from the N.C. Department of Commerce Labor & Economic Analysis Division, the latest data available, Richmond County has an unemployment rate of 11 percent. That’s lower than the 13 percent in August of 2012 and down from 11.9 percent in July of this year.
Still, that 11 percent rate is higher than the state’s 8.7 percent. There’s a fair chance that a good number of veterans are included in Richmond County’s 11 percent. Thomas is not here to give them a job. He’s here to offer veterans — those willing — the opportunity to improve application materials and show how military occupational specialties translate into the civilian workforce.
Thomas is here to offer veterans a chance to earn a leg up on the competition, or at least become equals. By attending workshops on improve resumes and conducting mock interviews, former soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines can be better prepared for the next obstacle they’re required to breach.
Thomas has a big job to do in Richmond County. We’re glad he’s here and ready to get started. There’s a lot of work to be done.