You would think it wouldn't be hard for a returning veteran who's been taught discipline, leadership, and how to follow orders to have no trouble finding a job in New Jersey- and you'd be wrong.

Lt. Col. Robert Vicci is the CEO of VetREST. He spends his days on the phone or in public tracking down jobs for veterans, transitioning vets back to the workplace, and setting up places where vets can work and make a solid living and contribution to society. "Veech" says corporate America is afraid of the returning veteran.`

"Corporate America is afraid of us because we do have a different outlook on life. I go through each day just saying, 'no one is shooting at me today, it's a good day.' A lot of the corporations are talking a good story but when you get to that magic box at the end of the job application, 'Are you a combat veteran?' we struggle. And the other question, 'Do you or did you ever have a disability?' Really, you're going to ask me that?'" Veterans, Vicci says, are cut from a different cloth.

"Your typical veteran wants to get up early, wants to get to work, wants to do a great job, wants some sort of mentoring so that they can advance. Well there's a lot of folks out there that are afraid of that. They don't understand us. Many of our vets are Gen X Gen Y and millennials and your hiring managers are predominately millennials and they look at the 400,000 vets in New Jersey and we're a threat. We're their dad's age."

"The verbiage is out there, nobody's putting up." Part of the problem, Vicci says, is the way the media portrays veterans. "If you look at the way veterans are portrayed in movies and television, at the end of the movie, generally we're PTSD'd out of our minds, we're causing conflict, we're all divorced, we're drinking heavily, we're doing drugs and alcohol. Although it is commonplace with many of our veterans, it's not what the norm is."

Many end up worse off than when they left. Vicci, who was mobilized for 26 months when he did his deployment, says, "I was a vice president at American Express in New York City, managing 400 properties for them. When I came back and tried to reintegrate to the civilian marketplace, the highest level position I could obtain was a project manager which was three levels down with half the salary." Vicci says, "Talk about trying to fit back into the normal population and now you're severely underemployed and clawing your way back up the ladder."

Those returning troops also deal with people not understanding what they've been through and saw, some of which is life changing. "A lot of our vets are struggling getting back to a new revised normal because that's what it is."

If you would like to know more, Vicci invites you to contact him at rvicci@vetrest.org

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