Columbia, SC (WLTX) - The veteran population here in the Palmetto state is higher than the national average. Unfortunately, when our heroes come back it's often with a stigma that makes it hard to enter the job market.
"When someone comes into my office and they're telling me they're transitioning out of active duty or they're retiring from the guard, there's a lot of hesitation," Tashera Hutcheson, a civilian worker in the South Carolina National Guard, "because they still worry about how people are going to perceive them, whether or not their disabilities will be an issue, their PTSD will be an issue."
That's why Operation Palmetto Employment, a statewide military employment initiative, hosted a summit teaching employers the value of a veteran.
"We are definitely a good ol' boy state, but there weren't solid initiatives to be able to hire veterans, so there were so many of them slipping through the cracks," Hutcheson said.
Slipping with them were skills that James Bost, a recruiting officer with the Columbia Fire Department, says civilian applicants may not have.
"Discipline, structure," Bost said, "about 30% of our employees are military employed."
"They present so many transferable skills as far as leadership, emotional intelligence, [and] stress tolerance," said Vincent Ingold, a talent recruiter with Verizon.
Ingold says, it's more than just about using their skill set.
"They've paid the ultimate price, they've served our country and we owe them that gratitude," Ingold said, "and not just in the form of a thank you, in hiring them. In giving them careers."
Hutcheson says veteran unemployment has been declining in the past few years and that her goal is to eventually see a seamless transition from service to civilian life.