First Lady Michelle Obama, Dr. Jill Biden to speak at Fort Campbell


They've served the country and are now back from the battlefield. The next thing veterans need are jobs.

On Wednesday, First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden are heading to Fort Campbell for a speech on helping vets get to work. The speech will be followed by a Hiring Our Heroes career fair featuring more than one hundred employers.

"That's the biggest hurdle of getting out is the unknown," said retired first sergeant Mia Jackson. "You're used to the stability the military provides for you. To face that unknown is daunting."

For his 20 years in the military, Jackson's world was all boots, uniforms, deployments and homecomings. Now sitting in a cubicle, ear to the phone, Jackson said doing work study with the Department of Labor has been a major shift for a first sergeant.

"After you've been institutionalized in the military, indoctrinated in how things go day-to-day, readjusting is devastating," said Jackson.

Wednesday, Jackson's headed to Fort Campbell to hear the first lady's speech and take part in the Hiring Our Heroes career fair.

"Finding employment that can sustain yourself, that's the big challenge," said Jackson. "You realize you're just one of the fish in a big pond."

With the defense department planning to cut the active-duty military to around 450,000, workers with the Montgomery County Career Center said a lot more soldiers are walking through their doors.

"Before December, they were telling me they were losing 700 soldiers a month at Fort Campbell," said Victor Leon of the Department of Labor. "About two-thirds of those were staying in this area."

Despite the number of soldiers in the job hunt, workers with the Montgomery County Veterans Service Office said employers often seek out soldiers.

"They know they're drug-free," said David Ross of the Veterans Service Office. "They got good work habits. They work long hours if need be."

"The skills that they have are better than some folks who just came out of college," said Melissa Lowe of Workforce Essentials. "It's just a matter of figuring out, 'how do I translate this into something that an employer out here can use?' "

Jackson said he plans to use his confidence as a first sergeant Wednesday, hoping he'll walk away from the speech and career fair with a new direction on life after the military.

"They have assets, but they have to raise their hand to get to it," said Ross.

Copyright 2014 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.



Forrest Sanders is an award-winning reporter, videographer and editor at News4.

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