The UA is reaching out to them in a win-win way.

Hire A Hero ( www.hireahero.org) is a nonprofit initiative that networks military veterans and military-friendly employers.

Helmets to Hardhats (www.helmetstohardhats.org) is a program co-sponsored by the Building and Construction Trades unions and their employer associations to recruit military veterans to the construction trades.

Veterans in Piping ( www.uavip.org) is a United Association program elaborating on Helmets to Hardhats and geared specifically to provide employment for veterans in the union pipe trades.

To all of these programs, yours truly, US54806559, issues a hearty HOO-RAH!

Amazing, isn’t it, that 41 years after being honorably discharged from active duty, this veteran can still recite his military serial number instantly. I’m pretty sure I could still field-strip an M-14 rifle as well. (Oh, I might poke myself in the eye trying to present arms, but close order drill was never my favorite thing.) The U.S. military has its wacky ways, but I have to admit military training sure does lock in the lessons intended.

And that is the point of this article.

The patriot in me thinks military veterans are owed every consideration we can grant them for the hard work and sacrifices they’ve made. But that’s not the main reason to hire them. More pertinent is that today’s military veterans are some of the best prospects around for pipe trades jobs. Recruiting them is a win-win because:

  • People who serve in today’s all-volunteer military come predominantly from blue collar backgrounds. They grew up in a culture of hard work and unpretentiousness. Pipe trades recruiters often remark how they are hampered by the trade’s lack of glamour and harsh working conditions. Such drawbacks are no big deal to people who have served in the hell holes of Iraq and Afghanistan.

  • Today’s veterans are a smart and disciplined bunch of youngsters. Almost all of them graduated from high school and stayed out of serious trouble, or else they wouldn’t have qualified to serve in the modern U.S. military. Honorable service demonstrates further honing of their intellect and character.

  • Random drug testing is a fact of life in today’s military. So the rate of drug usage among military veterans is likely to be far lower than among their peers who have not served. This addresses another big problem facing pipe trades recruiters.

  • Some military veterans had technical occupational specialties or skills applicable to the pipe trades. Many of them operated or maintained equipment worth millions of dollars while still in their teens or early twenties.

    In all-around skills and values, today’s military veterans rank as the cream of their generation. Unfortunately, you wouldn’t know that from most of the stories about veterans that appear in the news media, which tend to focus on negatives such as suicides and the occasional lurid murder.

    Some 1.4 million military personnel are now on active duty and there are an estimated 23 million military veterans in the United States. In any population that large, there are bound to be plenty of instances of aberrant behavior.

    What the news media consistently fails to report in these sensational stories is how military veterans stack up against comparable groups and the population at-large. I suspect the rates of suicide, criminality, etc., would be found unremarkable among military personnel and veterans when compared to civilians of similar demographics.

    When a military vet does something bad enough to be newsworthy, the media inevitably cites post-traumatic stress as a possible cause, reflecting their world view that every combat veteran is potentially unhinged. As for me, I suspect you’d find a smaller ratio of head cases among combat veterans than you’d uncover in a close investigation of the New York Times news staff.

    To the extent that there are special challenges facing military veterans, the UA’s VIP program admirably includes two weeks of instruction in career and lifestyle transitioning. This is to help them adjust to a world in which people don’t unquestionably follow orders and communicate in more subtle ways than platoon sergeants.

    If you don’t have a job to offer them, at least show your gratitude to our men in women in uniform with little courtesies. When you see them in public, tell them thank-you. If they’re passing time in an airport bar, buy them a drink. If you can afford to do so, give them a business freebie or discount. These freedom fighters deserve VIP treatment.


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