VOICES: The continuing legacy of American veterans in the workplace

As our country emerges from the longest war in its history, the 4.5 million veterans who served during this period are poised to lead our workforce — and the U.S. economy — into the next decades. This group of talented Americans, known as the post-9/11 veterans, have channeled their talent, skills, and leadership into post-military success, achieving higher labor participation rates and over 30% higher earnings than their non-veteran peers, according to the Census Bureau.

This might seem surprising, but it should not be. Research has consistently indicated that veterans are more productive, promote faster, and stay longer with an employer than their non-veteran peers, and industry leaders readily back up these findings.

This newest generation of dedicated Americans is a formidable group. They are the youngest, most diverse, and largest group of veterans in the labor force. Like the legions of veterans who served in the past, they have carried on a legacy of duty, valor, and compassion. Our post-9/11 veterans have fought bravely in defense of our values, but they have also demonstrated remarkable resilience and adaptability, pivoting to support missions ranging from humanitarian assistance to local economic development. Needless to say, they performed admirably.

While in uniform, veterans benefited not just from world-class technical training, but also from extraordinary opportunities to develop soft skills such as teamwork, resourcefulness, and initiative, traits that employers consistently rank as among the most desirable.

Hiring veterans is not just the right thing to do – it is a smart business decision.

As a post-9/11 veteran and former senior Defense Department official, I have seen firsthand the sacrifices borne by service members, veterans, and their families. Many carry with them the wounds of combat – visible and invisible – and grieve the irreplaceable loss of their teammates. We have made great progress towards ensuring that all who need care get it, acknowledging that much work remains to be done. And while support for our wounded, ill, and injured veterans remains steadfast, we should simultaneously promote career opportunities and a workplace environment that allows all veterans to thrive.

They are a vital component of our labor force and will continue to play a critical role driving innovation, efficiency and success.

As in every war throughout our history, a generation of Americans stepped forward to answer this most recent call to serve. Now, as our nation moves forward, our post-9/11 veterans stand ready to “build back better” through meaningful careers.

On this Veterans Day, we celebrate all veterans, not just for their service while in uniform, but also for their ongoing contributions to the world’s most talented workforce.

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James D. Rodriguez is the U.S. Department of Labor’s Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy for Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS)

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