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Connecticut Veteran Faces Employment Obstacles

Lifelong Connecticut resident Sgt. Maj. Caterina Veronesi was expecting potential employers to understand the correlation between military work and civilian jobs after serving in the U.S. Army for eight years and remaining a member of the Reserves. However, she’s met with roadblocks and misunderstanding during her job search.

“I don’t blame it on the companies, but they need to realize they could stand to receive some education on today’s service member and the value of the work they do,” she said.

Veronesi was studying music at the Boston University School of the Arts in the mid-1980s on full scholarship before she decided to enter the military. “I went into it because of the opportunities, and what I got was priceless,” she said. “I felt there was something that was going to relate to anything I did later in life.”

In 2010, the unemployment rate for veterans who had served at any time since September 2001 was 11.5 percent, according to the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics . And 61 percent of employers do not believe they have “a complete understanding of the qualifications ex-service members offer,” according to a study.

“I’ve observed that civilian employees only see that we think tactically, but they don’t realize we have to think strategically and operationally,” Veronesi said. She was deployed in 2006 to the southern area of Baghdad, Iraq, known as the “Triangle of Death,” where she was in charge of a company of 32 officers and enlisted service members. She returned in 2010 to Iraq and Kuwait for Operation New Dawn when troop levels dropped in the region and the mission was changing from defense to diplomacy.

Veronesi recalled speaking to the mayor in Baqubah to open communications with neighborhood and district leaders to address a lack of essential services, such as police, public works and infrastructure. “This kind of analysis and assessment were tools combat commanders have to take to abate friction and unrest, all while maintaining a level of security,” she said. Veronesi said today’s service members must act as administrators and diplomats, taking on roles and responsibilities similar to in a company.

“You can be in project management, act as an instructor, manager; you need to be mechanically coordinated, innovative and good at multitasking,” she said. “An employer loses out in not being able to see that.”

Veronesi is pursuing a degree in political science at University of Connecticut and plans to get her master's degree as well. “Service members are going to school and getting degrees online, in addition to the immense experience in a place where war is going on,” she said. “I would hope in the future that employers would speak to someone with combat experience and not just acknowledge our plight, but see the value of what we have done and what we could potentially do in their company.”

Do you know a service member who is having difficulties finding employment? Comment below.

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