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A Few Good Recruits

Injured Veterans Find Themselves In High Demand Among Contractors

By Ellen McCarthy
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, February 28, 2005; Page E01

Army Capt. Lonnie Moore lost his right leg and -- he thought -- his career last April when his convoy was ambushed on the road to Ramadi, in central Iraq. The injury led to some dark days in Walter Reed Army Medical Center as Moore, 29, began his recuperation and contemplated life outside the military.

Within months, however, he had received job offers from a munitions company, an information technology firm, and the Department of Veterans Affairs itself. And that's without sending out a résumé.


"Veterans are getting good jobs right now," says Army Capt. Lonnie Moore, who lost his leg last year. Sgt. Robert Faulk, a physical therapy assistant, helps with his recovery. (Susan Biddle -- The Washington Post)

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"People tend to seek us out," Moore said of the veterans, particularly those who have been injured, returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. "They know we'll be an asset to their companies, and that we're not going to let our injuries stand in the way. . . . Everybody I've known that's gotten out, they're not having a hard time finding jobs."

Through broad initiatives and individual requests, corporations have been actively recruiting veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, turning military hospitals like Walter Reed into de facto hiring centers.

Job offers aren't being handed out carte blanche, and companies say talent and fit are still the main priorities. But executives seeking out wounded soldiers claim that many of the skills acquired in the military are applicable in the private sector -- particularly within companies that serve the government. A soldier who has led a platoon into war is probably capable of leading a unit at a private company, executives say. With government contracting in the midst of a boom, the security clearances and knowledge that soldiers bring home with them are also highly valued.

"They've got to be able to talk the language. And you can't teach a person that language, it's a language you can only learn by being part of that culture," said Paul Evancoe, director of military operations at FNH USA Inc., a McLean weapons manufacturer with about 350 employees in the United States and 16 in the Washington area. The company is among those interested in hiring Moore.

The quest to seek an injured vet was both company-driven and personal, said Evancoe, who received a Purple Heart after being shot in Vietnam. Many FNH employees are veterans, so the company's atmosphere and values largely mirror that of the military, he added.

"If you take a guy and immerse him back into that culture . . . it's going to be very positive. It's going to help the healing," Evancoe said. "It's not like I can hire every single guy, but when I have a job, I'm going to search out a veteran."

The Labor Department does not have statistics on the job placement rates of veterans disabled in Afghanistan or Iraq. However, the unemployment rate for veterans was lower than that for nonveterans in 2003, the most recent statistics available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That year, veterans had an unemployment rate of 4.5 percent, compared with 5.9 percent for nonveterans.

The same study found that 9 percent of veterans suffered from a service-related disability; their unemployment rate was comparable to that of their non-injured peers.


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