Posted at: 11/09/2012 6:41 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4
On Veterans Day weekend in New Mexico the focus is on jobs for our men and women returning from service in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The picture was downright ugly during the great recession, and while it's been improving in recent months, there's still a long way to go.
The University of New Mexico hosted early Veterans Day ceremonies Friday morning, on a campus where about 1,000 veterans are enrolled.
UNM has an aggressive recruitment program aimed at all branches of the service. UNM gets then enrolled and works hard to keep them in school and on the path to good careers with tutoring, counselling, and mentoring.
"I have received nothing but help with the GI Bill, the military disability, the people at the college," said UNM student Joshua Gutierrez, an 8 year Navy veteran. "Nobody's done anything but try to help us and I feel like they're trying to do the best they can to make sure I get an education and a career."
Gutierrez is majoring in Exercise Science and English right now. Daniel Shank, a 21 year Navy veteran, wants to be a high school teacher.
"I'm taking advantage of the GI Bill currently, so I'm a fulltime student here at UNM," Shank said. " I'm taking full advantage of that, I'm getting my education. I also going to use the Troops to Teachers program to become an educator."
Last month across the nation the unemployment rate among all veteranms was 6.3 percent, well below the national average of 7.9 percent. But the jobless rate for post-9/11 veterans - the most recent crop - is a whopping 10 percent.
"It's very dependent on how the economy does," said New Mexico Veterans Services Secretary Timothy Hale, a retired Air Force colonel. "If the economy starts to go down and overall jobless rates go up, the jobless rates for veterans go up also. We're very concerned about that."
A lot of American companies, including many in New Mexico, are aggressive about hiring veterans. If it gets down to two qualified applicants, and one of them is a veteran - the veteran gets the job.