Closing the gap

November 6, 2013 -  By
Marisa Palmieri

Marisa Palmieri

The U.S. military discharges about a quarter million service members annually and about 10 percent of post-9/11 veterans are unemployed. Those figures—and the landscape industry’s dire labor needs—make it encouraging to see, as laid out in this month’s cover story, at least a few landscape firms are recruiting skilled leaders from the armed forces.

Because the number of service members discharged and unemployed seems high, it’s surprising to note just 0.5 percent of today’s U.S. population has been on active military duty at any given time, according to the Pew Research Center. Compare that to about 9 percent at the height of World War II. There are many reasons for this (a shrinking military force, no draft in two generations and others) and the outcome of such a disparity is certainly up for debate. In any case, the result of this divide means many Americans—including veterans’ potential civilian employers and coworkers—haven’t been on the frontline of the home front.

I have been: My husband has completed three overseas deployments with the Army National Guard. I’m both proud of what he’s accomplished and hypersensitive to the needs of returning service members readjusting to civilian life.

In the event you do bring on board a former or current member of the military, please consider the pointers that follow. They may seem like common sense, but surprisingly they’re not. As the loved one of a person who has served, I’m asking for others to be mindful of the potential gap between their perspectives and experiences and those of a veteran.

Do’s and don’ts

Do thank them for their service and offer support, but don’t make it a big deal. Doing so may make the veteran feel awkward. Certainly don’t share any political views like, “I don’t think we should be there in the first place.”

Don’t use war-related hyperbole to describe your job, such as “I’ve been diving on grenades around here all day.” No, you haven’t. You’ve been dealing with minor workplace inconveniences. It’s not the same thing.

Do remember that while a veteran may be fully capable in his or her job and seem adjusted to being home from a deployment or working at a civilian job, that doesn’t mean it has been an easy road. Forty-four percent of post-9/11 veterans say their readjustment to civilian life was difficult, compared to just 25 percent of veterans from earlier eras who say so, Pew reports.

Don’t ask questions like, “What’s the worst thing that happened to you over there?” Has anyone ever casually asked you to recall the most difficult day of your life? It’s invasive, insensitive and could cause someone to relive painful memories. Just don’t do it.

Finally, why not give your veteran employees a day off on Veterans Day? It’s a federal holiday, but few private-sector businesses close that day, so it comes and goes without much of a to-do. One day may not seem like much, but the gesture will speak volumes about your appreciation for their service.

About the Author:

Marisa Palmieri is an experienced Green Industry editor who's won numerous awards for her coverage of the landscape and golf course markets from the Turf & Ornamental Communicators Association (TOCA), the Press Club of Cleveland and the American Society of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE). In 2007, ASBPE named her a Young Leader. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Journalism, cum laude, from Ohio University’s Scripps School of Journalism.

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