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Veterans struggle to land civilian jobs

Tuesday - 6/11/2013, 4:18pm  ET

WASHINGTON - Finding a job is never easy in this economy. But for thousands of veterans coming back from Iraq or Afghanistan it can be an even tougher road.

Veterans have skills that can be difficult to translate into the civilian workforce, says Bernadette Semple, who spent 22 years in the Navy, retiring as a commander after she was wounded in a little known conflict in East Africa.

"It's just knowing what to do and how to translate their skills into the civilian job market," she says.

Semple is looking for a communications job and was among the hundreds of veterans at a job fair for veterans at the Washington Convention Center Tuesday.

Jamal Thomas, 27 of Glen Arden, Md., who is two months out of the Army after a tour in Afghanistan, says employers are eager to talk to veterans about jobs, but that doesn't translate into work.

"When it all comes down to the actually getting the job, its hard that way," Thomas says.

Thomas was in the infantry where he got plenty of experience working with computers. But he says several employers have told him he just doesn't have the type of skills they need.

Ryan Keady, from Alexandria, also says he got a lot of experience with computers in the Army working with rocket and missile systems. But he doesn't have the certificates or other documentation that some employers want when they hire.

"The skills are there, it's just hard to coordinate it with other positions in the civilian world," Keady says.

Former Marine Joe Wagner, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, says when he gets an interview, he talks up his ability to think quickly on his feet.

He tells prospective employers about jury-rigging an antenna when he couldn't get a radio system to work. He hopes such examples will earn him credit for ingenuity in the eyes of interviewers.

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