On Tuesday, January 24, the Commander-in-Chief of our Armed Forces reminded all Americans that, “Above all, our freedom endures because of the men and women in uniform who defend it,” and that “ … this generation of heroes has made the United States safer and more respected around the world."
The President, further, promised, “As they come home, we must serve them as well as they’ve served us. That includes giving them the care and the benefits they have earned … And it means enlisting our veterans in the work of rebuilding our nation."
National Guard and Reserve forces today total over 1 million service members and represent 48 percent of our total military force; while every day around the globe, thousands of men and women in uniform, including dedicated members of the National Guard and Reserves, risk their lives and make great sacrifices to defend our national interests, serving extended tours away from their homes, families and jobs.
At the same time, we are now seeing unprecedented levels of unemployment and underemployment among members of the Guard and Reserve, as up to 22 percent of Guard and Reserve members face unemployment.
In this time of economic uncertainty, the Employer Support Guard and Reserve (ESGR) is focusing on connecting employers with the talented pool of service members and their spouses, with the intent of facilitating meaningful employment opportunities.
To further this goal, the New Jersey ESGR has launched an Employment Initiative Program (EIP), which is a collaborative effort with federal agencies including the Department of Labor (Veterans Affairs), the Department of Veterans, the Small Business Administration and the Office of Personnel Management.
The goal is to enhance the employment process and serve as an effective resource for service members and employers. ESGR is also partnering with Employer Partnership of the Armed Forces (EPAF) through EIP with a high-tech and high-touch approach.
For almost a year, now, the United States Chamber of Commerce has also endeavored to find employment for our returning veterans and the spouses of those who continue to serve, at home and abroad, with its Hiring Our Heroes program.
The Hiring Our Heroes program is a nationwide effort to help veterans and military spouses find meaningful employment, in partnership with the Department of Labor Veterans Employment and Training Service (DOL VETS), to improve public-private sector coordination in local communities, where veterans and their families are returning every day.
Despite those efforts, the unemployment rate for veterans of our Armed Forces in our Nation and in our State continues to exceed the over-all rate.
In order to take the lead on advancing the EIP to the next level, the New Jersey ESGR has enlisted strong and positive support from corporate leaders, the New Jersey State Chamber of Commerce, US Department of Labor/VETS and the New Jersey League of Municipalities.
It is incumbent on all of us to prove that New Jersey cares for the men and women in uniform who risk their lives and make great sacrifices to defend our national interests.
This employment initiative can be New Jersey’s way of saying thank you to the men and women who made great sacrifices to protect our nation’s freedom.
Local officials throughout the State of New Jersey, working together through the League of Municipalities, and with the New Jersey ESGR, their local and State Chambers of Commerce, and local business leaders can help to advance basic fairness to our vets and their families by pursuing one simple goal: to allow America’s over one million unemployed veterans and military spouses to follow their dreams, instead of spending their lives just trying to catch up.
In gratitude, the Township of Manchester pledges its enthusiastic and unqualified support for the Employment Initiative Program of the New Jersey Employer Support Guard and Reserves.