Editor's Note

Patriotism and Payback Time

By Sheri O'Meara

I didn't expect to get teary. I planned to just mark time as I awaited President Obama's speech at the Minneapolis Convention Center during the National American Legion Convention Aug. 30. But the patriotism in that hall before he even arrived was palpable, moving-a tangible, powerful force.

No matter that this president is a great speaker: A month later, I don't remember what he said. But I can recall vividly the swell of pride, observing the assembled in uniforms. The cheers when recent active military vets were invited, then stood to be applauded, by their commander in chief. 

This moment stands out in sharp relief to the facts: Nearly 23 percent of Minnesota veterans who have served after Sept. 11, 2001, can't find a job. Twice the national average. There is something fundamentally wrong with that. Don't we, at the very least, owe them the opportunity to work when they return from serving their country?

Turns out, it makes good business sense, too. 

Barbara O'Reilly, Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs, says, "We need to challenge our companies to work to really hire the individuals who are still serving. Whenever a Guardsman or Reservist leaves for training, they are coming back to those companies with better skills, better training, and they are an asset to a company every time they leave." 

Minnesota business leaders have the power to change the veterans unemployment numbers:

* To implement programs-as the 15 Yellow Ribbon companies do in their systematic commitment to recruiting, training and hiring military veterans in Minnesota. 

* To advocate for hiring veterans-as Bill Popp of Popp Communications does via radio ads. 

* To understand what companies like Top Career Solutions already know: "The veteran population is a very strong talent pool. They possess skills and qualities that are immeasurable-such as leadership, pride, teamwork and dedication," says recruiter Danielle Micek. 

So, I invite you: Read the story in this issue. Go to btyr.org (Beyond the Yellow Ribbon) and investigate further. Then, when it's time to hire: Recruit Minnesota's military veterans. It's payback time.