Jobless vet: It was easier in Iraq than at home

The unemployment rate has been around nine percent for almost two years, but it is surprising to see that unemployment for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans is nearly triple that. Twenty-six percent of vets between the ages of 18-24 are out of work. CBS News correspondent Bill Whitaker takes a look at two veterans struggling to find a job.

In Iraq, the Oregon National Guard's 41st Infantry Brigade combat team provided security for convoys day and night -- a dangerous job.

From July 2009 to March 2010, convoys were routine for gunners Lawrence Burnham and Stephanie Anderson. Both good soldiers, they risked their lives and did their jobs. They dreamed of returning home to routine civilian jobs, as Stephanie said in this video resume posted from Iraq:

"I just love to work and I love to get the job done."

Lawrence Burnham made a video too: "I'm motivated and I'll be ready to work."

They returned home to Oregon as heroes. But more than a year later, they're feeling nearly defeated. Lawrence can't find a job, is running out of savings, almost running out of hope.

"It's very frustrating," said Burnham. "It's almost like you get to the point of 'What's the point?' 'What's the point in even looking for a job?' I'm not going to find one."

Stephanie, who dreams of being a chef in her own restaurant, would feel fortunate to get a fast food job. She's made it her job to find a job. "Basically I write where I've gone to and if they're hiring or not," she said of her job searches.

"Do you have any idea how many jobs you've tried to get?" asked Whitaker.

"Probably up to 300 now," said Stephanie.

"So, which was harder; the job you had over there [in Iraq] or searching for a job over here?

"Probably over here."

Of the almost 3,000 soldiers of the 41st brigade combat team deployed with Stephanie and Lawrence, a full 50 percent returned here to Oregon to face unemployment.

Oregon's National Guard is a leader in helping soldiers re-enter civilian life, but in this job market, as Lawrence said: "It's competitive. It's hard. It was so much easier overseas. And then [to] come home and not be able to find a job...you get to the point where you're like, 'Well, now where?' What am I gonna do?'"

If Stephanie can't find a job, this part-time soldier with the National Guard plans to join the army and become a full-time soldier.

"So that I can kind of have a permanent job and make a career out of the military," she explained.

Where, unlike in civilian life, Stephanie hopes her hard work and sense of duty will pay off.

  • Bill Whitaker

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