The Fine Line, conclusion, by guest essayist Amy Fernaays

Somewhere in the middle a casualty of war exists in the form of privately owned businesses. Reservists that own a company must find someone to run their company while they are deployed. For some reservists this means shutting down a business and losing everything to service their country.
The men and women that served to protect us are in need of protection now. We have been here before and the results were not good. After the Vietnam War the unemployment rate for military soldiers’ was very high. The Gulf War-era brought an unemployment rate that was 11.6 percent; that translates into 958,000 unemployed veterans. [Albany Times Union, 2009]
The future doesn’t look good when our businesses and our heroes are at war.
The Veteran’s Association has many programs available to soldiers but for a lot of reservists this is not an option. V.A. centers may not be easy to access. Just like a reservists’ family not having access to military base support; a veteran may not have access to veteran support. That is why many companies are implementing their own programs to assist returning veterans. Samuel Greencard state, “BNSF Railway Company employs about 6,000 veterans who represent about 15 percent of its workforce, and more than 1,000 BNSF employees have been called to active duty since 2001. The firm offers these employees “whole pay” and sustained benefits while they are away. BNSF must ‘make adjustments and plan ahead when service members are called to active duty,’ says John Wesley III, manager of military staffing.”
BNSF Railway Co. is a leading example of how to address the military workforce soldier issue, but not all companies can afford to take such a remarkable approach to caring for their military personnel. This should stand as a starting place for other companies and organizations to find new ways to implement a system using the example of BNSF Railway Co.
Veterans seeking help can visit the Veteran’s Association online and be linked to different groups within the VA that can assist with medical care, disability, PTSD, drug and alcohol counseling. The VA can also refer veterans to legal counsel if needed. There are also civilian organizations that assist military personnel with employment, housing, support groups and with readjusting to civilian life. You can find many organizations listed online or in your community. The VFW (Veteran’s Foreign Wars) and the American Legion are two organizations that can help point a veteran to organizations that are in their area.
It is time the government took responsibility for the soldiers. Organizations that are branches of the military system are not organized or properly managed, and fall short of fulfilling the needs of veterans. The VA does not have the capability to provide the needed support that all veterans are entitled to. It is time the VA was restructured so that the needs of all veterans: reservists, retired and disabled soldiers receive what is truly due to them. This organization needs to meet the needs of each individual that has served this country without hesitation.
The goal is for veterans to be provided with the support and care they need. The VA needs to be divided. It has become an organization too big to do any good. There needs to be two branches to the VA; a veterans branch and a veterans medical branch. One side deals with the physical and psychological health of veterans, and the other side deals with the needs of transitioning the veteran back to civilian life through training, education and assisting with employment/reemployment.
This is not a get out of jail free card for businesses. They need to remember that their soldier is being deployed to fight for the freedom of this country, and as a company there is a responsibility to this soldier. That is to provide them with the assistance they need to come back and return to their job.
For someone interested in helping veterans there are many organizations already in place that need volunteers, but there is a new need that can’t be overlooked. Small business owner/reservist that is called to duty must sacrifice their businesses to serve. There is a need for an organization that can connect skilled and educated people willing to assist small business owning reservists. An organization or groups that can help keep these businesses’ running while the owner serves as a soldier. This will be a daunting task, but one that needs to be addressed.
When everyone is contributing and assisting veterans, as they transition back to civilian life the problem becomes a lot smaller. America has enough military history to show what happens when veterans are not helped. The reality is right now there are 21.5 million veterans [U.S. Census Bureau] that served this country during wars, conflicts, humanitarian reliefs, and in peace. Now it is time to serve them.
This is a difficult time for civilians and reservists alike but if the government, companies, organizations, civilians and reservists work together many solutions will be developed and our heroes will be given the welcome home they deserve. Not the shallow empty parades that fade away but instead the support, and help they need to resume taking care of their families and the chance to live the America Dream.


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