Site menu:


June 2012 Brief: Volume 19, Number 17

  Click Here for a pdf verison.

Hiring Our Heroes


by Deborah D. Thornton



As the post-recession economy continues to drag along – some weeks employment is up, some down; some weeks gas is nearly $4.00 a gallon, some weeks less – one bright spot is the work being done to “Hire Our Heroes.”


Iowa has almost 250,000 veterans in our midst.[1] This represents about 10.2 percent of our population, compared to 9.4 percent nationally. They are our family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues. Many are retired, such as those from the World War II, Korea, and Vietnam eras. But many are young(er) people from the Desert Storm, Iraq, and Afghanistan conflicts. As the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wind down, National Guard and active service military are returning to civilian life. These men and women are a vital part of our economy and workforce. But do they have jobs?


By some estimates, as many as 16-25 percent of our 3,000 National Guard members returning from Afghanistan were initially unemployed, though that fell quickly as they sorted themselves out and either returned to their previous employment, entered job-training programs, or entered college.[2] Colonel Greg Hapgood with the Iowa National Guard estimates that the real unemployment rate among all veterans is closer to 8 percent, still higher than the overall Iowa rate of 5.2 percent.[3]


A 2012 summary report by the Joint Economic Committee of the U.S. Congress put the Iowa post-9/11 veterans’ unemployment at about 11.8 percent in 2011, compared to 12.1 percent nationally.[4] More recent Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers reflect a continuing downward trend, to 9.2 percent. On a national basis, among veterans younger than 25, the rate was almost 19 percent; however, those attending post-secondary college or schools are included in that count if they are drawing unemployment. Those aged 25-34 are 11.5 percent unemployed.[5] Unfortunately, earlier in the recession, as many as 30 percent of our post-9/11 veterans were unemployed.


At the state level many programs are in place to help veterans find work or get an education. Iowa Workforce Development has 17 people in 14 different offices working to help veterans. They offer career counseling, resume development support, and guidance on available jobs and training programs. Retiring active duty members take an employment training class, which includes how to find a job and create a resume, as well as personal financial management instruction. National Guard and Reserve members are offered these classes, but not required to take them. The National Guard has over 42 new employment services access points for veterans within the armory system.[6]


In an Employer Support of Guard and Reserves video, veterans are characterized as being “on time, every day,” “drug-free,” and “physically fit.” They have maturity and the “right” attitude. Among other leaders in Iowa, both Dr. Don Racheter, President of the Public Interest Institute, and Governor Terry Branstad are veterans of the U.S. Army. Governor Branstad (Republican) served from 1969-71, as a Sergeant earning an Army Commendation Medal.[7] Interestingly, of the 12 Governors nationally who were members of the U.S. military, 10 are Republicans.[8]


The Iowa Employer Support of Guard and Reserve (I-ESGR) office has an active group of over 150 volunteers and many more companies who are actively supporting employment and reemployment efforts. Recently, the Den Hergog Industries company, based in Hosper, Iowa, a 300-employee plastics manufacturer, was one of three companies statewide awarded the “Pro Patria Award” for employers who show “leadership practices and personnel policies that support their employees” in the National Guard and Reserve.[9] Another 23 companies received “Above and Beyond” awards for their efforts. These businesses are to be commended for encouraging those who defend our freedoms.


One part of the ESGR program is “Boss Lift.” This is an opportunity for bosses of National Guard members to spend two days learning more about the duties and responsibilities of our military. In 2010 representatives from over 20 Iowa companies attended a Boss Lift at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, where they toured the base, learned about assault rifles, rode in Humvees, observed military tactics, and received briefings on Afghanistan and Iraq.[10] Participants reported they were impressed with the communications and leadership skills of the young people they met.


On a personal basis, my husband, Edgar Thornton, has been working with the U.S. State Department in both Kandahar and Kabul, Afghanistan, for the last two years, as an un-armed non-combatant. That means if someone shoots at him, he can’t shoot back. As a result we are exceedingly grateful for the work our military does in protecting him. Hiring our heroes once they return home is a good thing.


[1] “Iowa and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs,” State Summary, Department of Veterans Affairs, November 2010, <> accessed on May 8, 2012.
[2] “DMACC to host Iowa Veterans Career Retreat,” The Newton Daily News, February 28, 2012, <> accessed on May 8, 2012.
[3] Telephone conversation with Colonel Greg Hapgood, Iowa National Guard, May 8, 2012. Quoted with permission.
[4] “Economic Overview and Outlook: Iowa,” Joint Economic Committee United States Congress, March 2012, <> accessed on May 8, 2012.
[5] “The Employment Situation of Veterans,” The Institute of Veterans and Military Families, May 2012, <> .
[6] Kerry Koonce, “Iowa National Guard and Workforce Development Partner, Bring Services Directly to Veterans,” Iowa Workforce Development, July 27, 2011, <> accessed on May 9, 2012.
[7] “Terry Branstad,” Wikipedia, <> accessed on May 9, 2012.
[8] “Military Service,” National Journal Almanac, <> accessed on May 9, 2012.
[9] “ESGR Presents Den Hertog Industries with Pro Patria Award,” April 19, 2012, <> accessed on May 8, 2012.
[10] “Newsletter,” Iowa Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, Volume 10, Issue 4, December 2010, <> accessed on May 9, 2012.


Deborah D. Thornton is a Research Analyst with Public Interest Institute, Mount Pleasant, Iowa. Contact her at


Permission to reprint or copy in whole or part is granted, provided a version of this credit line is used:"Reprinted by permission from INSTITUTE BRIEF, a publication of Public Interest Institute." The views expressed in this publication are those of the author and not necessarily those of Public Interest Institute. They are brought to you in the interest of a better-informed citizenry.



All of our publications are available for sponsorship.  Sponsoring a publication is an excellent way for you to show your support of our efforts to defend liberty and define the proper role of government.  For more information, please contact Public Interest Institute at 319-385-3462 or e-mail us at