(Photo by Lucas Carter)

Legion, Chamber put veterans to work

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At the end of February, Durell Moore will be transitioning back to civilian life after serving his country for eight years in the Air Force.

“There’s excitement, nervousness and fear” about transitioning, said Moore, who is looking for career opportunities around San Antonio, Texas. “But there’s an ambitious drive when considering the opportunities. It’s like a mold or clay. You can make yourself into whatever you want. You can use the skills and experiences you have from service and use it to your advantage.”

Moore was among nearly 500 job seekers attending the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Hiring Our Heroes job fair Feb. 3 at the AT&T Center in San Antonio. The American Legion supports this and other Chamber of Commerce events that provide interviews, networking opportunities and resume workshops for servicemembers, veterans and their family members.

“The Legion is an amazing part of this,” said Chuck Hodges, Hiring Our Heroes senior director of events and programs. “The Legion has a huge network of veterans all across this great country. They have a great conduit or connective tissue with those veterans to make sure that they are not missing out right now.

“Our ability to work with the Legion is very critical.”

Overall, there were 66 employers at the job fair, along with veterans service organizations such as The American Legion Department of Texas. Employers collected about 1,500 résumés, conducted 467 interviews and extended 57 firm job offers.

In addition to the three-hour long job fair, a workshop aimed at job seekers was held in the morning. American Legion member and Lockheed Martin employee David Wallace, of Virginia, led the session which 130 job seekers attended.

Companies were looking for candidates in fields from hospitality to Internet technology to financial services to the trucking industry. Recruiters were speaking to job seekers about positions from entry level to middle management to even executive management.

Moore, who is looking for work in security or law enforcement, appreciates the efforts of the Legion and other participants. “I have already received positive feedback from different organizations,” he said. “When I walk around the establishment here, I see a lot of smiles. I am feeling productive. It’s great assistance for our current servicemembers and veterans.”

Hodges said the primary goal of the job fairs is to hire veterans; however he also sees these events as ways for the job seekers to prepare.

“For me, success is first, a list of people who were actually hired today,” he said. “That’s what the goal is. The second piece is for those who weren’t hired, that they learn persistence like we learned in the military. If you come here today and the only thing you leave with is the experience you got at the workshops and talking with companies, you are gaining skillsets that you may be able to use down the line, at the next event you go to. I would love to say that every single veteran or servicemember who walks in that door today is hired. But I know that’s unrealistic. It’s all about preparation and getting yourself ready for that next time.”

Lt. Col. Tim Beninato understands that preparation is key in what he calls an “intimidating process.” Beninato, who is stationed at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, will be transitioning out of the Army in a couple of months after 25 years.

“It’s a great opportunity to meet with employers and find out what’s available here in the San Antonio area,” said Beninato, who is looking for work in corporate communications or public relations.

As a military officer, Beninato appreciates the Legion’s commitment to assisting servicemembers, veterans and their families.

“I think The American Legion and many other organizations are all fantastic,” Beninato said. “One of the big things in the Army right now from top leadership on down is ‘Soldier for Life.’ It’s important for us to take care of our soldiers when they enter service, while they are in service and after. And organizations like the Legion do a great job of that — taking care of our servicemembers after they’ve served and moving onto the next chapter of their life.”