Veterans Day Weekend Reminds Northlanders of Struggles Vets Still Face

By KBJR News 1

November 8, 2012 Updated Nov 8, 2012 at 8:13 PM CST

Duluth, MN (Northland's NewsCenter) - In the words of Vietnam Veteran Durbin Keeney, it may not be the era of anger–fueled anti–war protests as it was in the 60s and 70s, but for the returning veteran of the 21st century, the barriers of adjusting to civilian life still exist, starting with education.

Lake Superior College Intercultural Center Coordinator Carl Crawford says they've seen an increase in veteran enrollment as of late: "We need to embrace them and get them back into civilization, and make them welcome in our community. And that starts with us having them here, on campus, and being a part of our student population."

But Keeney says the life lessons learned in combat don't transfer over to the classroom—or with peers—as easily as many think.

"Somebody's 22–years–old. [They] may be 35 or 40 emotionally, and [they look] around at everybody else, and they're talking about what they did last weekend, and what kind of activities they did, and they're like, 'I did that a long time ago,'" said Keeney.

Similar barriers exist for returning veterans who seek a position in the workforce. While October's veteran unemployment rate has dropped to 6.3 percent from October 2011's 7.7 percent, unemployment among women veterans has risen from 7.6 to 9.5 percent, says the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

It's a problem that President Obama hopes to address with the Veterans Jobs Corps Act of 2012, and state leaders, like Senator Amy Klobuchar, who introduced the Veterans to Paramedics Act, which would streamline civilian paramedic training for returning veterans.

"I see a lot of feel–good stuff out there, but I don't think they're putting enough energy into it—it could be better. I see progress, but they're talking a lot, [and] to me, talk is cheap," said Vietnam Veteran Tommy Dean King.

While the Veterans Jobs Corps Act was voted down in September, the Veterans to Paramedics Act is still sitting in limbo.

The reason that the Veterans Jobs Corps Act failed?

According to legislators: the one billion dollar price tag that came with it.