By Secretary of State Jason Kander
As a veteran and statewide officeholder, I’m often asked to speak at various events throughout our state honoring veterans and our military. Dedications, dinners, parades, marches, festivals—these are all very worthy efforts and wonderful tributes, but what really motivates me is helping our veterans and those currently serving succeed here at home, with good jobs and bright futures.
Too often, employers see military service on a resume only long enough to skim past it, noting the likelihood that the applicant is hard-working and disciplined. If they’re hiring for a technical position, they might look for keywords that would lend themselves to that particular line of work, but short of a nearly perfect military-to-civilian symmetry of transferrable skills, they are more likely to see it as time lost for the applicant.
Employers across the country certainly respect service enough to want to hire veterans, and they will often do what they can to find them an entry-level job. But hiring veterans out of a sense of charity misses out on the fact that they are valuable assets. And in a world where so few civilians have military experience, their scarcity should drive up their value. It’s a good business decision to hire a veteran.
The conflicts of the past 13 years have necessitated a diffusion of responsibility down the ranks perhaps like never before. Since September 11, 2001, it has been the split-second decisions made by Privates, Sergeants, and Lieutenants on street corners in places like Fallujah and Kandahar that have so often determined the course of the war.
Employers who understand that this generation of veterans is more equipped to handle any challenge stand to gain the most from the influx of veterans entering the workforce.
I know first-hand that folks serving in the military are skilled professional leaders. You combine those skill sets with a tough work ethic and an entrepreneurial spirit, and there’s no telling how successful that soldier could be.
That’s why I worked to create Startups for Soldiers, a law that waives business start-up fees for anyone currently serving in the military. Passed in 2014 with bipartisan support, it was a simple fix that has given our entrepreneurial men and women in uniform a little extra incentive and encouragement to start their own businesses. Thanks to strong positive feedback, I’m proud to say we’ll work to expand this program to Missouri veterans in 2016.
Startups for Soldiers was based on a simple idea. Sometimes that’s one of the best things you can do, just make basic tasks easier for those putting themselves in harm’s way. So that’s what we did for military voters, as well.
My office launched our online Military Voting Portal in the spring of 2014. Members of our military living overseas—along with their families, aid workers, students and professionals—are now eligible for an easier way to request and receive absentee ballots electronically.
All of us in public service have an obligation to do what we can to not just honor our veterans and those currently serving, but to take action to help these men and women succeed. They deserve to take part in the American Dream they fought to preserve for everyone else.
Of course we all must continue to thank our veterans for their service, but we must also show our gratitude by making sure they have opportunities for good jobs and careers that value their unique skills, experience and work ethic. If we fail these fine men and women, we will deny our country one of its greatest human resources.