As he scanned the crowd at the Kona Veterans and Military Appreciation Day Saturday, a tear came to Dave Fischer’s eye.
“Our veterans are being recognized for the work they did, and it’s wonderful they would do something like this,” said Fischer, a Kailua-Kona resident who served in the U.S. Army in Vietnam. “Things are different now than when the Vietnam War troops came back and weren’t treated right.”
But now veterans get the respect Fischer said they deserve, and that encourages more young people to join the military. He should know — he and his wife, Arlene, have two children currently serving in the armed forces.
The Fischers were just a couple of the people who attended the first Kona Veterans and Military Appreciation Day and Job Fair at the Kona Farm Fair at Old Kona Airport Park. The West Hawaii Veterans Cemetery Development and Expansion Association, federal Department of Labor’s Veterans Employment and Training Services, and the state Office of Veterans Services sponsored the event.
Also during the event, Maj. Gen. Kurt Fuller of the U.S. Army’s 25th Infantry Division at Schofield Barracks on Oahu, spoke to attendees commending veterans, active military personnel, and the businesses looking to hire them. He also provided an update on Pacific theater operations.
“By hiring a veteran you’re living by your words — you’re not just saying ‘thank you for your service,’ but you’re returning that favor by endorsing veterans’ abilities by appreciating their unique experience, and by valuing their character,” he said.
The event’s intent is to find employment for veterans and military personnel, as well as provide them information on health, benefits and social/family issues. The event also helps fairgoers get in touch with organizations that support the military and veterans community on the Big Island, according to John Grogan, president of the cemetery development organization. He hopes the event will be held periodically in the future.
A U.S. Chamber of Commerce-U.S. Department of Labor job fair was also held, connecting veterans and military personnel with recruiting employers and providing tips for resume writing and interviewing. About 20 employer-sponsored booths provided information on jobs available on Hawaii Island. Several schools also provided details about programs.
Known more commonly as Hiring Our Heroes, the job fairs strive to help veterans, active military personnel and military spouses find employment. More than 10,400 people have obtained employment via the fairs since they began in March 2011.
Department of Labor Veterans and Employment Training Service Hawaii State Director Ann Greenlee said Saturday was the first time the military-oriented job fair has been held on Hawaii Island. It has already been held on other Hawaiian Islands.
“We hope veterans of the Island of Hawaii get hooked up with employers and learn about all the benefits and services available to them,” she said. “Fairs like this will hopefully help improve veteran hiring.”
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 6.3 percent of veterans over age 18 in the civilian labor force were unemployed in October 2012 compared with 7.7 percent in October 2011. The national unemployment rate was 7.9 percent.