Debra J. Saunders

Common sense would suggest that corporate human resource staffers would want to hire adults who could be counted on in the most trying of circumstances. And veterans have a history of putting a mission first. But, Crawford suspects, corporate HR-types note the veterans' box checked off on an online application, and see damaged goods. Service in the military is seen as a negative, not a plus. Businesses also are afraid that a newly returned vet might be called back into service. The VA survey found a 10-point drop in the percentage of employed recently-returned veterans who work for private companies since 1990.

"If I were an employer and I wasn't a vet and I was misinformed, I probably wouldn't hire a vet either," said Williams. In the Bay Area, critics of the Iraq War often say that they oppose the war, but support the troops. That's not what Williams sees. He sees people who look down on those who have served in the military.

Williams is baffled at what he sees as an odd sense of entitlement. How can it be that he has served their country, yet non-vets see themselves as somehow better than he is?

And guess what: Because, according to the survey, non-vets are more likely to earn more than new vets, their sense of entitlement pays off.

Who hires veterans? In Crawford's experience, the answer is: veterans. Otherwise, hiring vets is not on the radar for many human resources departments.

Williams, who is black, recalls serving with men whom he believed to be bigots -- but he knew they would have his back. And they knew they could depend on him.

For those who see the Bay Area as tolerant and embracing, Williams uttered words to think about: "The civilian world, to me, is a lot colder than the military world."

Debra J. Saunders

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