From duty to employment

By Gus Bode

Steven Keith said he has struggled to find a job or career ever since he left Iraq.

Keith’s luck, along with other veterans’ fortunes, could soon change.

The second annual Veteran’s State Job Fair will be held at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post in Marion Friday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

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Many local employers such as trucking companies, Sears and Pepsi Mid-America will be on hand.

Michael Duncan, local veterans employment representative, said the purpose of the job fair is to help local veterans find a job after leaving the military.

“There is simply a big push to serve the veterans who have served their country,” Duncan said. “We as veteran representatives have launched a combined effort to help those veterans and their families to re-establish them in the real world, if you will, of civilian life.”

Keith, a former SIU student from Decatur, has scoured Internet resources for employment opportunities since he has been back.

“The job that the military provides you, that is pretty much your only skill that you have unless you have had prior civilian jobs,” Keith said. “So like me with military police, don’t want to be a civilian cop, so my hands are pretty much tied as far as other skills or other job training I can get into.”

Keith said he recently moved to Florida to be a civilian cop. After he realized that he didn’t want to pursue that career, he tried his luck at anti-terrorism and as a personal trainer.

Lately, he said he has been applying anywhere where he can gain a little income, such as the VA hospital and local animal hospitals.

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Duncan said employers at the job fair would have a designated table where they will hand out applications, accept resumes and also conduct interviews. State and federal agencies will be available for veterans seeking health benefit information, Duncan said.

Duncan said when veterans are in the army they are provided with essentially free room and board, health care and a pay check for their families.

“When you leave the military that is over with, so finding suitable employment is very important and assisting these veterans to make it.” he said, noting that last year several veterans left the fair with gainful employment.

Keith said the Veteran Job Fair would give veterans a chance to see how their particular job skills can be applied to a career.

“It will help veterans like myself and others talk to employers and talk to professionals,” Keith said. “So I could talk to them and they will open my eyes as far as a better range of options as far as a career goes.”

Mica Metsoff, spokesperson for the Illinois Department of Human Resources, said finding veterans jobs is a big goal of both the Governor and the state of Illinois.

“We think one of the most important ways you can honor a veteran and celebrate what they have done for this country is by making sure that once they have come back from their tour of duty that they have got employment,” Metsoff said.

Daily Egyptian reporter Eugene Clark can be reached at 536-3311 ext. 258 or at [email protected]

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