MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Inside Richfield’s American Legion club, President Obama was on the television speaking to the crowd at the legion’s national convention in Minneapolis. Sitting around the tables and bar, club members were glued to his every word.

Applause rang out when they heard Obama proclaim, “For the sake of our vets and the sake of our economy, we need these veterans working.”

It was about 25 minutes into his speech when the president’s words struck a sensitive nerve. That’s when he brought up the challenge of getting 9/11-era veterans back to work. Unemployment among Iraq and Afghanistan war vets hovers around 23 percent, more than twice the national average.

“These kids are going back two, three, maybe four times. And boy, that’s gotta wear on you,” bartender Steve Sawyer said.

He was talking about the repeated deployments for a number of servicemen and servicewomen. Multiple tours of duty is one of the possible causes for the high unemployment rate among veterans.

Three vets who understand the strains and frustrations of being jobless — Nate Webber, Barry Widell and Chris Magnan — were attending their weekly veteran’s networking group meeting at the Anoka County Workforce Center in Blaine.

“It is, it is, it’s very frustrating,” Magnan said.

He’s an unemployed veteran who has been out of work since June 2010.

Every Tuesday, he and about 40 other veterans will meet at the center and exchange ideas, frustrations and job leads.

Fellow veteran, Widell, has been without a job since January of this year.

“Very few of us have been here for under a year. But a lot of us guys are out there waiting. We just want something to do,” he said.

The president’s pitch for employer tax credits, which would give returning and wounded vets preferential hiring, could put people like Webber back to work. He served tours in both Desert Shield and Desert Storm and returned home only to begin battles with a brain tumor.

“Being a vet with PTSD, and complications from coming back, (employers) don’t see what you’ve gone through,” Webber said.

That’s the toughest part, his fellow veterans say, is getting employers to understand the challenges they’ve faced. But it’s also one of their greatest attributes. Veterans say they are dedicated and disciplined, able to both take orders and hand them out.

“We’re just looking for the opportunity to prove that, and asking for the opportunity to prove to them,” Magnan said.

That’s apparently the whole idea behind President Obama’s pitch — for those who’ve sacrificed for the sake of country, it’s now time for employers to come to their aid.

“We’ve been spit and polished for awhile, we’ve got it down,” Widell said.

Comments (11)
  1. G Dog says:

    Sorry Prez, can’t hire veterans. Big Corporations have to sit on their huge profits, overcompensate the folks in the corner offices and put on the kneepads for stockholders.

    No room there to hire anyone, let alone veterans.

    1. Darwin says:

      No disrespect to the veterans!!!! When is he going to start pushing the hiring of the unemployed? Oh yeah that voting block can’t afford the gas next year to go vote, so let’s not worry about them.

  2. Just me says:

    As the owner of a small business I can only say this will not do anything at all. I can barely afford the people I have now, so how am I supposed to hire new ones? An employee is far more than their salary and benefits, it’s the payroll taxes that go with them, and the extra workers comp insurance you have to pay. Payroll taxes kill jobs, plain and simple. Cut existing payroll taxes and you might see an increase in jobs. Of course those taxes help pay for social security so….

  3. Steve says:

    Gee, ya think the Bamster is a little scared of the upcoming elections in Minnesota when he’s here twice in 3 weeks! HAHAHAHAHAHA! He’d better be!

    1. snowman says:

      Yeah, so you Minnesota rubes have anybody better to vote for? The Republicans arent going to solve the problems

  4. X says:

    I say lead by example, how many of the press czars are vets, how many in his cabinet?

    Seems he could hire some for the plush jobs he gave his Chicago buddies.

  5. Rico Suave says:

    Wow, this is great. Our problems are over. Obama is telling us to hire veterans. He’s so cool. I bet the vets just love this guy. Especially the Navy “Corpse”men as he calls them. He’s definitely the greatest military mind in all of American history. Right behind Colon Powell.

    1. Grover says:

      A little racist there? Since racism is not cool how about you change your name to Cracka Jack÷

  6. One who knows says:

    If your a vetran returning from one of the current wars.
    The American Legion and VFW will encourage you to join there organization. Don’t be think that this good old boys club will help you in anyway. Its all BS

  7. EJ says:

    I’m a Vet, have a Masters Degree, yet can’t get work because I have a felony. 10% of the Prison population are Vets, and we are among 33% unemployment. Mostly because it’s so easy to do background checks now days. So we do are time, and get judged again when we get out again. Oh the Feds also have a 87% return rate. So who wants to hire a Vet with a felony?

  8. Vets says:

    I think the comment X made above is the only contructive one. I hate to say it but the military for many is the last resort. Kids from small towns without many other options but to join the military. They get out with few marketable skill and a lot of baggage. This to me is another red herring from OBO. Now let’s think back as to the all the favors the Vietnam vets were given.

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