Job fair aims to ease tough fight in finding work for veterans

Job fair aims to ease tough fight in finding work for veterans »Play Video
Xavier Smith, right, meets with a potential employer at the Hiring Our Heroes Career Fair on Tuesday at Memorial Coliseum.

PORTLAND, Ore. - Veterans Day has come and gone and while the rest of the country was back at work Tuesday, many of the very veterans who were honored during the holiday were hard at work trying to find a job, struggling to find their place in a civilian workforce.

But hundreds of local veterans got a chance to break into dozens of local businesses Tuesday at Memorial Coliseum.

About 120 businesses and more than 400 veterans registered for the Hiring Our Heroes Career Fair. Additionally, there were also about 300 walk-ins.

It was the biggest career fair for veterans in Oregon so far, and it’s needed, especially for the country's newest veterans. Almost 1 out of every 3 veterans 24 years old and younger is unemployed.

Jed Walters, a former Black Hawk crew chief, is one of those veterans looking for a job, but his five years of honors and Army service hasn't added up to one. He's been looking for eight months.

The younger generation of veterans has an unemployment rate higher than the national average and struggle to make their military skills make sense to employers.

"Things can get lost in translation," said Xavier Smith, who was also one of the more than 700 veterans who was at the fair and has also been looking for a job for months.

"It's difficult to get a job when you don't have one, because I don't have a place to live," said Walters.

For these veterans, staying positive is not always easy, but Hiring Heroes has helped more than 10,000 veterans find a job in just the past year and a half.

It's enough to keep veterans like Smith and Walters shaking hands and making the rounds to potential employers at the fair, hoping they're next.

"I'm just kind of hoping to break it with this," Walters said. "Hoping to find somebody who will give me a chance."

The fair also helps spouses of veterans, too. One woman at the fair was looking for work because her husband is 100 percent disabled at home. She's been out of working caring for him and struggling to find work to support their family.