Job fair aims to take sting out of veteran homecomings

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INDIANAPOLIS – For many soldiers, the hardest part of going to war is coming home.

After the hugs and the hero’s welcome, the new front lines are figuring out how to transition to civilian life and the biggest enemy is the high unemployment rate.

“Some of these folks like myself, I’ve never had a civilian job and I’ve always relied on the military for active duty or education benefits while I’m going to college,” said Devin McClarnon.

McClarnon has been in the Indiana National Guard for 11 years and is about to transition out. He’s not sure what’s next for him, but he has leadership training and says the “Operation Hire a Hoosier Veteran” Job Fair gives him hope.

“Opportunities like this are great for me to be able to see what everybody else has to offer and then kind of pick and choose,” McClarnon said.

The pickings are good. From Fortune 500 companies like Walmart and Verizon to Lowes and Kroger, there are a lot of opportunities with nearly 200 corporations ready to hire.

Gov. Mike Pence says job creation should be job one in Indiana. And he says hiring vets should be a top priority.

“It’s just heartbreaking for me to think of younger veterans, veterans who’ve returned from recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan…the unemployment rate is almost twice the unemployment rate in the state as a whole we’ve just got to do a better job,” Gov. Pence said.

Companies like Eli Lilly hope to help close that gap and tap into a huge trained talent pool.

“A lot of the skill sets and experiences folks develop in the military are the exact same ones we are looking for at Eli Lilly and Company,” said recruiter Kevin Noone.

As for McClarnon, he expects to eventually win this battle and land a stable job that pays well before he leaves the military.

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