Supporting the Troops

I was appalled at recent comments by an official of a veterans’ services group in San Diego said about the marketability of young war veterans in a recent New York Times article.  “I’m not necessarily convinced that they have great marketable skills.  If you train someone to be a sniper, those are not necessarily skills that are transferable,” she claimed.[1] Tell that to veterans of World War II, the Korean conflict and the Vietnam War, many of whom lead their companies today or did so.

Our military veterans have better skills for today’s workplace than most nonveterans.  In the military, they gain leadership skills, planning abilities, high standards, ethics and morals, and determination. They’re trained to interact and work collegially as a team, to detect problems and troubleshoot them, and to use all types of technology.

All of these capabilities and others are why I recently joined more than 4,500 volunteers who have signed the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) Statement of Support for the Guard and Reserve. It confirms my responsibility as an employer to honor the job rights of individuals who leave employment positions to undertake military service. As a CEO, I take this responsibility seriously.

The jobless rate for post 9/11 veterans has hovered near 11.5 percent since 2010, way above the 9.6 percent national rate.   An unsettling article in a recent Wall Street Journal disclosed U.S. veterans’ tough task of finding a job as they begin to return home.  These are thousands of men and women who put their lives on the line day in and day out, and many return home with horrific memories of warfare.  I’m personally grateful for the devotion and this sacrifice of our men and women in uniform.

For employers, signing the ESGR pledge is a small but significant step in the right direction for our returning troops.   At Merisant, we believe we live this responsibility.  Nearly 3 percent of Merisant employees are active in the National Guard and Reserve.  Here at Merisant, they handle practically every job and responsibility while building careers and supporting their families.  And what truly distinguishes them is that when their country calls, they answer.

I can attest personally that the advanced training that are men and women in uniform receive translates in the workplace.  This training ranges from the ability to think quickly and clearly under pressure to leading and executing.  Perhaps the strongest and most inspiring attribute


[1] Rachel Feldstein, associate director of a veterans’ support group in San Diego, quoted in The New York Times, Dec. 18, 2011.