Veterans from the Chicago area attend a Hiring our Heroes job fair at the Hilton Chicago, March 28, 2012. Photo by Sarah Tilotta

Hiring Our Heroes headed to Puerto Rico

It’s often said that when the mainland catches a cold, Puerto Rico gets the flu. This is especially true for veterans unemployment, as the island territory ranks among the highest in the nation in former servicemembers who are out of work.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and The American Legion have taken notice, choosing Puerto Rico as the location for a Hiring Our Heroes job fair, which takes place June 1 at the Embassy Suites Hotel & Casino in San Juan from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Attendees can preregister for the free event until May 24. Walk-ins are also welcomed.

Around 35 employers are expected to be in attendance, fielding applications, networking with job candidates and offering other career services. As has been the case in the past with Hiring Our Heroes fairs, some employers will interview on the spot.

Companies like Wal-Mart, JC Penny and Aflac have agreed to maintain booths at the event. Government organizations like the FBI and Drug Enforcement Agency will also be on hand.

“One of the main concerns in front of our troops is employment,” said Ildefonso “Pancho” Colon, department commander. “It is my opinion that our troops deserve the first crack at the jobs that are available.”

Current estimates indicate that Puerto Rico has almost 200,000 veterans. “Soft” statistics have predicted that an unproportional amount of them are without work. This made the island a priority for The American Legion and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

“It was decided that The American Legion needed to take action and make a statement showing that we support our fellow veterans in Puerto Rico,” said Davy Leghorn, assistant director for the Legion’s Economic Division. “Staff from The American Legion Headquarters and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have worked closely with the Department of Puerto Rico and The Virgin Islands to ensure this hiring fair is successful.”

The hiring fair will coincide with The Department of Puerto Rico and The Virgin Islands’ annual department convention. The department has helped coordinate the event with Legion national headquarters, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Department of Labor, the National Guard and Army Reserve.

Colon sees it as a crucial step in improving career prospects for veterans in his sovereign.

“The job fair is only the tip of the iceberg,” he said. “Working together with all the different employers, we can accomplish so much.”