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Pols host job fair for Queens vets back at home

Angel Poggi (l.) says finding a job after returning home from the U.S. Army has proven difficult. Photo by Steve Mosco
State Sen. Joseph Addabbo Jr. (third from l.) organized the veteran job fair with help from state Assemblyman Mike Miller (second from r.). Photo by Steve Mosco
TimesLedger Newspapers

American war veterans often return home to waiting loved ones, but not always to waiting jobs.

That is why the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 32 reached out to state Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) and state Assemblyman Mike Miller (D-Woodhaven) to help facilitate a free job fair Friday for veterans and their spouses.

More than 80 potential employers turned out for the event, while dozens of vets showed up with résumés and references.

“Too many vets return from war without a job or without a home,” said Paul Narson, a Vietnam vet and president of Chapter 32. “Vets are coming home to a bad economy and we need to do what we can to help them find work.”

According to Narson, many veterans return home to find the jobs they left behind — such as police officers, firefighters and other community roles — are either no longer available due to budget cuts or there are no positions open. In some cases, veterans have had to take cuts in salary, hours and duties just to have some sort of employment in their former field.

Narson sought the help of elected officials because of their connections to businesses in Queens. And according to Addabbo, companies jumped at the chance to join the job fair and assist America’s heroes.

“These companies get it. They understand the need to help the men and women returning from war,” said Addabbo, a ranking member of the Senate Committee on Veterans, Homeland Security and Military Affairs. “Veterans are disciplined, hardworking individuals and businesses would be well-served to hire them.”

The fair, which took place at the Shops at Atlas Park, at 80-00 Cooper Ave. in Glendale, was free, open to veterans of all wars and featured employers from an array of industries.

“This is a great opportunity for vets to get a foot in the door,” said Miller. “They paid their dues and now it’s time we reward them.”

Also on hand were numerous veteran organizations, including Vets Helping Vets, a group dedicated to assisting servicemen and women in everything from retrieving benefits from the government to job placement.

Stephen B. Smith, of Vets Helping Vets, who served in Vietnam from 1967 through 1969, said returning vets’ first priority is to get their lives back in order — and that means getting back into the workforce and supporting their families.

“There don’t seem to be too many jobs waiting here for snipers, but all veterans excel in leadership positions,” Smith said.

But it is not only the veterans who need jobs. Spouses of returning vets are often forced into the workplace because their veteran wives or husbands might be disabled from combat.

“Many vets cannot work,” said John Chichester, president of Vets Helping Vets, who also served in Vietnam. “And when you put the spouse to work, a lot of times you’re helping an entire family not just an individual.”

Even some vets who did not find themselves in combat, still find themselves without a job and a means to support a family.

Angel Poggi, of Ozone Park, came to the job fair with one thought in mind: to find a job so he could care for his 7-month-old child.

“To have this opportunity here today, it’s awesome,” said Poggi, who applied for several positions, including security guard at James J. Peters VA Medical Center in the Bronx. “So many people need this support.”

Reach reporter Steve Mosco by e-mail at smosco@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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