State Senator Joe Addabbo Jr. and Assemblyman Mike Miller hosted a job fair at Atlas Park with the Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) on Friday, June 8.
However some said the turnout was less than what was planned for.
Employers came to the fair armed with 300 jobs available for veterans and their spouses, Addabbo said.
He said the veteran unemployment rate is currently at 13 percent, as they are returning from combat to face a sluggish economy.
“They left, they had a job, when they’re coming back they don’t have a job,” Addabbo said. “So there’s a growing need to pay attention to our veterans who serve our country in combat that are unemployed.”
Addabbo said employers who came to the fair knew what they were up against. They knew vets are sometimes injured or disabled, suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and other mental and physical ailments.
“They knew that some of them have disabilities, some of them are just returning, they understood what we are trying to target today,” Addabbo said.
Regardless, the employers were eager to help. It was the veterans that were not so eager, said Paul Narson, president of the VVA Queens Chapter #32.
Narson said the VVA ran an information fair for veterans for 20 years, and what started out with hundreds in attendance dwindled to 41 people last year.
“It’s a big transition going from being veterans, especially a combat veteran, to becoming a citizen again,” Narson said of why veterans may be hesitant to attend a job fair. “It’s going to take them a while to get used to being back home.”
Narson said when the Vietnam veterans were returning, they faced public criticism because they fought an unpopular war.
“The people were blaming the veterans instead of the politicians,” he said.
So veterans got together and formed the VVA in 1978, with the Chapter 32, which recently celebrated its 30th anniversary, being the first in the five boroughs.
However, it wasn’t until Vietnam veterans started getting sick from Agent Orange exposure and other aspects of the war that the association started really growing in numbers, Narson said.
He said in a lot of ways, veterans from the current wars in the Middle East relate to the Vietnam vets.
“They are coming back with the same things we came back with,” he said. “They’re coming back with diseases they got over there, they’re coming back with PTSD syndrome, they’re coming back with a lot of head injuries, and it’s going to take them a while to get out and to feel safe being a civilian again.”
Addabbo will host another job fair in October at Belmont Race Track, which he said is open to veterans and everyone else.
In the meantime, veterans can contact his office at (718) 738-1111 for a list of employers that attended last week’s fair, which Addabbo said are still willing to provide jobs to unemployed service members.