Local Vets Hit Hard By Economy

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During these tough economic times, one portion of our community is sometimes hit even harder...our veterans.

Hundreds of military members return to our area after serving every year, but find that once they get here, jobs aren't that easy to come by. And with Washoe County's unemployment rate creeping toward seven percent, that's never been more true.

We visited Truckee Meadows Community College Friday morning, where an early Veteran's Day celebration was taking place.

There we met a young man named Chris Fernandez, a former Corporal for the Marine Corps. Fernandez has a Purple Heart, he served in Iraq three times, and he fought in Falluja. But he says now that he's back in the civilian job market, none of that matters.

"When I was in the Marines, I was living a very good life. Then I got out and it just hasn't been there," said Fernandez.

He says he's faced major financial problems since he got out of the Marines. Like all service members, the military took care of him, and he made more money in the service than can on the outside.

Fernandez is now going toward a graphic communications degree at TMCC...but says he doesn't feel excited or confident about the direction in which he's headed.

"As an infantryman, it's very hard psychologically to deal with the fact that your skills are not needed in the outside world, unless you want to be a police officer. It kicks you in the gut sometimes and makes you wonder, 'why am I doing this?'" said Fernandez.

Robert Hernandez is director of a program at TMCC that can help people like Fernandez with career and education counseling to make the transition a little easier. He says veterans of today are facing the same problems of servicemen in years past, only magnified by our struggling economy.

"We've seen an interest in pursuing an educational goal. Anytime economic times are tough and unemployment rates go up, we see people come in for retraining and additional education," said Robert Hernandez, director of TMCC's Veterans Upward Bound program.

Fernandez says despite all the help, he feels worthless in the outside world...and knows that without a degree and a goal, he'll probably never make a competitive salary. He'd like to use his combat skills to be a private security guard, but says realistically, that probably won't ever happen.

"It's very hard to get those kind of jobs. There are so many people trying to apply for those jobs."

Fernandez says he likes school, but misses the comradery, and most likely, he'll end up quitting after this semester, and rejoining the service.

Fernandez is obviously an extreme case. There are veterans out there who get out of the military and then make it in the outside world just fine.
But if they do need a little extra help getting adjusted, or picking a career goal that's feasible in this economy, the Veterans Upward Bound Program at TMCC can help them.

For more information, call Robert Hernandez at 829-9007.