Sunday, June 22, 2008

Job fair buoys hopes of wounded Marines

Job fair buoys hopes of wounded Marines

By Jay Price, Staff Writer
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Camp Lejeune's first job fair aimed at wounded troops drew many of the 40 injured Marines from Camp Lejeune's Wounded Warrior Barracks.
Seeing the recruiters from 45 employers waiting at their booths was an instant confidence boost, said Pvt. Robert Wild, who was wounded in 2006 by two rocket-propelled grenades while serving in Iraq. He's days away from a medical retirement from the Marines with no job prospects and back, neck and leg injuries, post-traumatic stress disorder and a traumatic brain injury. He's 22 years old.

"It gives you hope that once you get out, it's not the end of the world, that there are people out there who want to hire us," he said today. "Until I came here and talked to some of these guys I didn't know my options."

Talking to a representative of a trucking company made him think that might be a good choice once his injuries have healed some.

Employers said it wasn't about charity, that veterans injured or not can make top-notch hires.

John F. Moore, himself a former Marine, has recruiting almost 50 from Camp Lejeune for the Nebraska-based trucking company Werner Enterprises.

Often civilians will hear that they can make $50,000 a year driving a truck and think it's easy money, then drop out quickly when they discover it's not. That doesn't happen as often for former service members, he said, since they're used to even tougher conditions, and issues such as time away from home on the road don't trouble them as much.

As long as a disabled veteran can pass the mandatory DOT physical and the requirements for a commercial drivers license, the company can hire them, he said. It has even taken on amputees, which is allowed in some cases with DOT waivers. If they can't drive, they can be mechanics or perform other work for the company, he said.

The job fair was sponsored by the Wounded Warrior Regiment, the unit to which injured out-patient Marines are assigned while they recuperate and go through the process of medical evaluation and discharge.

Such job fairs are a new idea for the Marines, who held the first two in Virginia and California earlier this year, and plan to make them a regular event every six months or so, said Richard Waller, a civilian worker with the regiment who helps organize the fairs.

"Instead of making them go looking for employers, we wanted to bring the employers here to them," he said.

The first two hours were reserved solely for wounded troops, then other veterans and their families were allowed in.

Employers represented included the likes of defense contractor Northrop Grumman, Alion Science Tech, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Veteran's Affairs Educational Services and the Durham Police Department. or (919)829-45267

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