New Jersey Past Department Commander Bob Looby was recognized earlier this week by the Department of Defense for his work in bringing veterans hiring initiatives to Guardsmen and reservists. (Photo by Amy C. Elliott)

New Jersey Legionnaire recognized for job efforts

As veterans come home from conflicts overseas and return to bleak employment prospects, Past Department Commander Bob Looby has made it his job to find them jobs.

Looby, the current Economics & Employment chairman for the Department of New Jersey, was recognized earlier this week with the Seven Seals Award, given by the Department of Defense’s Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR). The ESGR, an operational organization of DoD, uses the award to honor an individual, business or organization whose supportive actions have benefited the National Guard and Reserve components in significant ways.

A longtime Legionnaire, Looby has been instrumental in organizing career fairs for veterans, servicemembers and their families, and in bringing employers who are ready to hire to areas of the Garden State that have particularly high populations of unemployed veterans.

In June, Looby and a staff of 30 volunteers organized a Hiring Our Heroes event in MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. Around 400 veterans and servicemembers - many of them Guardsmen and reservists - flocked to the home of the NFL’s New York Giants, getting an opportunity to network with potential employers, fine-tune their résumé-writing and interviewing skills, and even interview on the spot with military-friendly companies.

When it comes to veterans employment initiatives, New Jersey is one of the most active and devoted departments, having hosted or helped host around 15 veterans hiring events each year.

Additionally, Looby and his staff carry their mission to state lawmakers’ offices. Earlier this year, Looby and other Legionnaires worked with Gov. Chris Christie’s office to win passage of credentialing laws that make it easier for veterans to earn professional licenses and certifications. The Department of New Jersey maintains a working relationship with Christie’s office, as the New Jersey governor spoke at the department’s convention this year.

During his tenure as department commander in 2010-2011, Looby spearheaded a fundraising effort to keep a state veterans housing facility funded. Thanks to the advocacy of Looby and the generosity of New Jersey Legionnaires, posts, Sons of The American Legion squadrons and Auxiliary units, construction was able to continue as planned on Veterans Haven, a state homeless veterans center that provides free housing to veterans who have fallen on hard times.

In all, the state’s Legion family contributed $165,000 to fund a housing wing that added 44 apartments to the complex. The donations covered the $88,000 construction bill for the addition and provided furnishing, amenities and a technology center for residents.

“Admittedly for many of us the work that we do for veterans is thankful enough, but when you are recognized by two great organization as the State Parole Board and ESGR, that is extra special,” Looby said.