Aiken, SC (WJBF) – “Personally, I’ve been jobless for 4 to 6 months at a time,” said Antonio Santiago, who added that life after the military has been rough.
“After we get out of military, personally a person like me, we look for jobs, but something that kind of compensates for what we use to make. You know, we come out here and we’re making $7.25 an hour, that’s kinda hard to survive on that,” he added.
That’s why veterans job fairs like the one held Thursday in Aiken are so important to Congressman Joe Wilson (R-South Carolina), who’s been holding these in his home district. He says his goal is to directly connect veterans to these opportunities. “It was shocking to me, that nearly 20 percent of National Guard veterans, returning from Afghanistan, Iraq, around the world, that almost 20 percent did not have the job.”
The fair not only provides employment opportunities, it also educates and informs veterans on their healthcare benefits and eligibility.
“There certainly are a lot of programs that are available, but if we don’t let the veterans know what’s available, then they’ll never be able to come in and get the help,” said Wendy Perry, from the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center in Augusta, Georgia.
Perry told us that the hospital provides several different types of counseling for vets who suffer with Post Traumatic Strees Disorder (PTSD). “We do group counseling, individual counseling, we also have some family counseling. PTSD effects the entire family.”
Organizers and vendors said, if this fair helps just one veteran, it makes it all worth it.
For Santiago, he says Thursday’s job fair was a blessing. “Thanks to this and Aiken Personnel Services, actually got me hired, training, and starting Saturday. Just talking to them today.”
Congressman Wilson holds these veteran fairs yearly in the Midlands and the Aiken-Barnwell area. This is the 4th year he has done so. He currently plans to have the veteran fairs again next year.