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Job Fair Connects Businesses With 'Wounded Warriors'

Purple Heart
Leoneda Inge

A career fair gets underway this morning in Raleigh that’s not for your the average job-seeker.  It’s specifically for men and women who were injured in the line of duty.

They’re called “Wounded Warriors” and in these tough economic times, there’s a special push to get this group back to work.

Whatever the unemployment rate – it’s usually twice as high for veterans. 

Vice Admiral David Dunaway doesn’t like that statistic.

"And that baffles me because the skill set of our veterans is typically twice as good as the skill set of many folks who are just starting in the job market, right," said Dunaway.

Dunaway is Commander of the Naval Air Systems Command.  The Department of the Navy is sponsoring its Fourth Annual Wounded Warrior and Veteran Hiring and Support Conference at the Hilton North Raleigh-Midtown.  This is the first time the conference has traveled to North Carolina.  More than 80 companies will participate.  

“This is about bridging, it’s about making a job match occur," said Dunaway.

Personnel from all branches of the military are here for the conference and “Hiring Heroes Career Fair.”  Sergeant Major Michael Barrett of the United States Marine Corps says it’s not all about what’s on a resume.  He says sometimes, employers have to see what they’re getting.

“Sunday, 6:00 at night, something needs to happen, that employer will be able to pick up the phone and go, 'Barrett, yeah Barrett, the guy who just got out. He’s the one, give him a call.' Six o'clock on a Sunday and you know what they’re going to respond with?" said Barrett.  "'I’m there.  Just tell me what you need done, I’ll go and take care of it.'  That’s who you’re going to get.'

David Shaw was in the U.S. Army for 13 years before being injured in Afghanistan.

“That’s my purple heart.  That’s the award they give you for when you’re wounded in combat to show the sacrifice you have made for your country," said Shaw.

On September 19, 2008, he was shot by enemy fire.  The bullet is still lodged in his arm.

We have a lot to offer. And as veterans we're very resilient. We might break down a little, but we're able to bounce back. - David Shaw

“We have a lot to offer.  And as veterans we’re very resilient.  We might break down a little, but we’re able to bounce back," said Shaw.

Today, Shaw works in Veterans Support for the Naval Air Systems Command, where he’s able to help other Wounded Warriors.

James Rodriguez oversees Veterans and Wounded Warrior Initiatives for BAE Systems, a global defense, security and aerospace company.   Rodriguez says he has no doubt the veterans at the job fair will have integrity, can multi-task and are reliable.  But his company wants a little bit more.

“The individual veterans have to understand how to really communicate what they bring to the table, vice what they brought to the table as a team.  We want them to come in as an individual first and then be able to contribute to the team," said Rodriguez. 

"Once they can understand how to articulate that to the hiring managers or the recruiters, then we can bring them in and make them a valuable part of our team."

More than 400 Wounded Warriors from Camp LeJeune, Ft. Bragg and other military installations will meet face-to-face with potential employers at today’s event.  The companies are wide-ranging from Bank of America, IBM and RTI International to Lockheed Martin and UNC Health Care.

Will Collins is Assistant Secretary for Workforce at the North Carolina Department of Commerce.  He attended the conference.  He says the state is working to better serve all Veterans.  One way is by honoring them with a job search head start on

“So veterans, whether they are transitioning out or they are already veterans out in the workforce, they have a 24 hour advance notice so that they can apply for jobs and get first priority before they are open to the public," said Collins.

Today’s “Hiring Heroes” career fair runs until 3 p.m.

Leoneda Inge is the co-host of WUNC's "Due South." Leoneda has been a radio journalist for more than 30 years, spending most of her career at WUNC as the Race and Southern Culture reporter. Leoneda’s work includes stories of race, slavery, memory and monuments. She has won "Gracie" awards, an Alfred I. duPont Award and several awards from the Radio, Television, Digital News Association (RTDNA). In 2017, Leoneda was named "Journalist of Distinction" by the National Association of Black Journalists.
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