Tom Purcell: Honor the fallen, help Pittsburgh Hires Veterans |
Tom Purcell, Columnist

Tom Purcell: Honor the fallen, help Pittsburgh Hires Veterans

Tom Purcell

With your military service complete, you’re eager to return home and get on with life in the private sector.

Surely, in a booming economy, you’ll have your pick of jobs?

Your training is extensive, after all — the U.S. military’s technology training and educational advancement is among the world’s very best.

Maybe you were a squad leader in the infantry, routinely making more important decisions — life-and-death decisions — than a large global corporation’s CEO makes.

Nobody questions your passion to succeed. Your record of accomplishments is long. Few can match your work ethic.

But transitioning to private employment proves to be far more difficult than you expected.

Your military promotions were based on your merits — your smarts and ability to make split-second decisions under incredible duress.

Never once did you have to prepare a resume, interview, schmooze at networking events or tell potential new bosses why you should be their choice for a job.

In the military, you were a member of a team, living for your brothers and sisters, and they for you, with continuous personal and professional support.

But upon retirement, only disabled vets receive ongoing support from the Department of Veterans Affairs and other government agencies.

You’re on your own — and you need “soft skills” to prepare for job interviews and translate your considerable military credentials into a winning resume.

The numbers bear out your challenge: In some regions, the unemployment rate among veterans is considerably higher than among non-veterans — up to 2.5% higher in Allegheny County, for example.

Jack Wagner, a Marine Corps veteran, Purple Heart recipient, and longtime local and state public servant, saw the need to address your challenge.

“Every veteran and spouse of a veteran is guaranteed a burial spot, but not a job,” he says. “We teach veterans how to take off in terms of training them in the military, but we don’t teach them well how to land when they come back to civilian life.”

In 2016, he led an effort with other concerned veterans to establish Pittsburgh Hires Veterans (PHV), a private, nonprofit organization that provides free one-on-one counseling and support to veterans and their spouses, including the National Guard and Reserves.

PHV’s approach is based on each individual’s unique needs and challenges. PHV’s team of four guided a highly credentialed personnel officer from months of unemployment into a human resources position with a global corporation.

PHV helped one long-unemployed young man attain the skills and mindset he needed to land a solid, livable-wage job — helping him address issues resulting from his traumatic brain injury.

PHV currently serves 200 veterans — double the number a year ago — and each of us can help PHV find them gainful work.

If you’re an employer, share your job opportunities. PHV is your gateway to veteran talent.

If you’re an individual, financial donations are welcome. PHV gets by solely on private funds. But you can also tell veterans looking for work that PHV is eager to help (be sure to “like” PHV on Facebook).

Memorial Day is upon us — the one day a year when we honor the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice serving our country.

What better way to serve veterans transitioning to private life than by doing our small part to help them find meaningful employment?

Freelance writer Tom Purcell of Library is author of “Misadventures of a 1970s Childhood.” Visit him on the web at

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