JOBS NOT ALWAYS WAITING FOR VETS HOME FROM IRAQ, TROOPS HUNT WORK.Byline: ALEX DOBUZINSKIS
BURBANK -- In summer 2003, Brenda Piedra was getting supplies in the streets of Baghdad -- "shopping," as she calls it.
But it was nothing like a trip to the mall. As an Army private on a supply mission, Piedra came under fire that August day. A soldier in the Humvee in front of her was killed, and Piedra spent a long 20 minutes dodging bullets, pulling injured soldiers out of the street and firing back.
Before leaving active duty in 2005, Piedra rose to the rank of sergeant, pulled guard-duty shifts and supervised crews of Iraqi construction workers.
But since returning home, and after more than a year of searching, she has been unable to find a good job. In fact, things have gotten so bad that she has applied for a job to return to Iraq as a civilian contractor.
On Thursday, she hoped for something better while attending a Burbank job fair for hundreds of fellow veterans, many of whom have struggled while transitioning to civilian life.
"It is frustrating," said Piedra, 25, of Burbank. "Not finding a job and lack of money, not paying the bills."
Some veterans said combat training doesn't always translate to a stable, well-paying job. And others still are haunted by what they experienced overseas.
Death up close
Joe Campo, 23, of Simi Valley Simi Valley (sē`mē, sĭm`ē), city (1990 pop. 100,217), Ventura co., SW Calif. in an oil, fruit, and farm region; laid out 1887, inc. 1969. still has nightmares in which he is shot or his buddy goes down. As an Army infantry soldier patrolling around Baghdad's Green Zone, he never went through those things but has seen death up close, he said at Thursday's job fair.
Driving along a busy street in a Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle infantry fighting vehicle
A heavily armed, armored combat vehicle, having tracks or wheels and often having amphibious capability, used to transport infantry into battle and support them there. , Campo's unit was attacked by two suicide bombers. Campo was hunkered down in the turret, and the explosion didn't pierce the heavily armored Bradley.
But it killed a dozen Iraqi civilians and police officers, he said. When he stuck his head out after the dust cleared, he found himself next to the severed head of one of the bombers.
"You go through not knowing if you're going to make it through that patrol," Campo said. "You don't know Don't know (DK, DKed)
"Don't know the trade." A Street expression used whenever one party lacks knowledge of a trade or receives conflicting instructions from the other party. if you're going to make it to the end of the night."
After returning home in January 2006, Campo would get nervous in a traffic jam -- such occurrences always meant danger in Iraq. And whenever he scanned a cardboard box cardboard box n → caja de cartón
cardboard box n → (boîte f en) carton m
cardboard box card n → or a stalled car, he would worry about an IED Noun 1. IED - an explosive device that is improvised
I.E.D., improvised explosive device
explosive device - device that bursts with sudden violence from internal energy , an improvised explosive device Noun 1. improvised explosive device - an explosive device that is improvised
explosive device - device that bursts with sudden violence from internal energy , even though he was back in the States.
But unlike Piedra, he has been lucky enough to find a job. He works for his cousin, handling birds of prey used on movies or to kill rodents at landfills. It's fun work -- not even like a real job -- but it's nothing close to full-time, he said.
Eventually, he'd like to work in public safety. But after shattering his leg in a recent motorcycle accident, he's unsure whether he can find the job he wants.
"As soon as they see the military experience, they know it's a good worker," he said of prospective employers. "But it's hard to get an actual, decent-salary job, something I can pursue my career in."
About 400 veterans attended Thursday's "Hire a Hero, Hire a Vet" event at the Burbank Airport Marriott. It was organized by the Economic Alliance of the San Fernando Valley San Fernando Valley
Valley, southern California, U.S. Northwest of central Los Angeles, the valley is bounded by the San Gabriel, Santa Susana, and Santa Monica mountains and the Simi Hills. and the California Employment Development Department, with help from the Military Order of the Purple Heart Purple Heart
U.S. medal awarded to those wounded in military action. [Am. Hist.: Misc.]
See : Bravery Service Foundation.
At a similar job fair in Mississippi, 600 veterans were hired in one day, many to rebuild the Gulf of Mexico Noun 1. Gulf of Mexico - an arm of the Atlantic to the south of the United States and to the east of Mexico
Golfo de Mexico
Atlantic, Atlantic Ocean - the 2nd largest ocean; separates North and South America on the west from Europe and Africa on the east coastline ravaged rav·age
v. rav·aged, rav·ag·ing, rav·ages
1. To bring heavy destruction on; devastate: A tornado ravaged the town.
2. by Hurricane Katrina Editing of this page by unregistered or newly registered users is currently disabled due to vandalism. , said Tom Poulter of the foundation.
Looking for Looking for
In the context of general equities, this describing a buy interest in which a dealer is asked to offer stock, often involving a capital commitment. Antithesis of in touch with. work
In California, more than 27,000 veterans a year return home looking for work, said Roger Brautigan, undersecretary of the California Department of Veterans Affairs Veterans Affairs is a term of the business that deals with the relation between a government and its veteran communities, usually administered by the designated government agency. .
Piedra said she is looking for work in law enforcement or corrections.
When she was in Iraq, her unit was sent out in Humvees without metal plating, and they lacked body armor, too. On the supply missions, they "shopped" at Baghdad stores for everything from furniture to water -- things that were lacking back at the base.
"It wasn't safe at all, but we had to do it because there was nothing set up for us," she said.
Los Angeles City Councilman Tony Cardenas attended Thursday's event and said soldiers like Piedra deserve help.
"She was going through that firefight fire·fight
An exchange of gunfire, as between infantry units. -- thank God she survived -- and she's back here with us," he said. "But the thing is she did it, she committed, she followed through and she's back. The least we can do is commit to helping them now that they're here."
Some of the veterans at the job fair are entering the work force after a decade or more in the military.
Sgt. William Becker, 54, has spent 28 years in the Army, with experience driving trucks and handling heavy weaponry. He leaves in February, and on Thursday he felt confident as he walked among the tables talking to employers.
"I can drive pretty much anything that can be driven," he said. "I've done quite a bit in my lifetime, so I can pretty much do anything they have."
U.S. Army Sgt. William Becker of Los Alamitos talks with Daryl Chamberlain of Resources and Development Management at a job fair at the Burbank Airport Marriott on Thursday. Back from Iraq, many veterans are searching hard to find well-paying jobs.
Tom Mendoza/Staff Photographer