Medal of Honor recipient now fights to hire vets
The Free Lance-Star
Dakota Meyer owns a small construction company in his native Kentucky, but the 24-year-old former Marine sergeant and Medal of Honor recipient is taking some time away from work to help other veterans find jobs.
"This is not about me. It's about Marines, military and their families," Meyer told a reporter Monday after a short speech at The Clubs at Quantico, which hosted the first Hiring Our Heroes job fair on a military installation.
"If I can use my platform to make a difference for all these people, that's what I want to do. If it was up to me, I would go back to my secluded home in Kentucky, and nobody would know who Dakota Meyer is."
Meyer, who received the military's highest honor from President Obama during a ceremony at the White House last September, was at Quantico to help kick off a hiring initiative by Toyota and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which launched the nationwide job fair last year.
"Even as a Medal of Honor recipient, Dakota dealt with many of the same challenges that thousands of transitioning post-9/11 veterans face as they enter the civilian workforce," Hiring Our Heroes Executive Director Kevin Schmiegel, a retired Marine lieutenant colonel who lives in southern Stafford County, said in a news release.
Hiring our Heroes and Toyota developed a "personal branding" guide that will be distributed to hundreds of thousands of veterans at some 400 job fairs planned around the nation through the coming year. The idea is for former service members to better prepare for the civilian workforce.
"I was a sniper in the [Marines], so I understand firsthand how hard translating a military skill to a civilian skill can be," Meyer said. "Our country has been served by people who make the best employees--where qualities like loyalty, commitment and hard work are not only required, but honored."
Meyer worked on his father's farm in Greensburg, Ky., before joining the Marines at age 17. After his service in Iraq and Afghanistan, he returned home and started his construction company.
Meyer said he was drawn to Hiring Our Heroes because of what finding work can mean for a veteran.
"You give a veteran a job, it helps everything in his life. It helps his family, his career, his future, his kids' future--everything."
According to the chamber, veterans have a harder time finding employment than their civilian peers. The jobless rate last year for post-
9/11 veterans was 12.1 percent, and for those 24 and under, 29 percent.
Since its first job fair in Chicago in March 2011, Hiring Our Heroes has held more than 230 fairs nationwide and helped more than 10,000 veterans and their spouses find jobs. Starting with Quantico, it hopes to expand its venues to about 60 military installations.
The program is aimed at people such as Dezmond Ray, who lives in Stafford.
After 12 years in the Marine Corps, he's looking for an administrative-clerical position.
"This is an opportunity for me to try different things. I've had a couple leads, but I'm seeing what other options there are," he said.
About 400 veterans met with about 60 employers at the job fair.
Meyer is the third living recipient of the Medal of Honor since the Vietnam War, and the first Marine to receive the medal for service in Iraq or Afghanistan.
On Sept. 8, 2011, Meyer, manning the gun turret in a Humvee, returned to a firefight in Kunar province in Afghanistan--contrary to orders--five times to rescue wounded Marines and Afghan soldiers pinned down during a six-hour battle.
Rusty Dennen: 540/374-5431