Nightly News | August 05, 2011
President BARACK OBAMA: Our incredible servicemen and women need know that America values them, not simply for what they can do in uniform, but for what they can do when they come home.
LESTER HOLT, anchor: Even as the nation got the latest news about jobs, President Obama announced a big new push to find jobs for America 's men and women in uniform who often find themselves coming home from the front lines, only to wind up on the unemployment line. One such veteran is part of an extraordinary documentary by Tom Brokaw that airs this weekend called " The Road Back ." Tom has been reporting on this man for nine years now and tonight shares a soldier's story.
TOM BROKAW reporting: Four months before the war began, I first met Staff Sergeant Charles Weaver at his Army base at Fort Stewart , Georgia . He was training his mortar squad with a growing sense of mission because the promise of conflict with Iraq was in the air. Do you ever allow yourself to think, 'God, I might get hurt or I may not come back'?
Staff Sergeant CHARLES WEAVER: Of course.
BROKAW: His wife, Dawn , a special ed teacher, shared those fears.
DAWN: 'What happens if I do lose him? What am I going to do? How am I going to mentally prepare myself? And how do I explain that to my kids?'
BROKAW: March 19, 2003 , the US attacked Baghdad with a massive force, to shock and awe Saddam Hussein into submission. The fighting became intense as Weaver and his unit waged the battle for Baghdad . When it came time to pull the trigger, no hesitation?
Staff Sgt WEAVER: Pulled the -- no hesitation. Pulled the trigger.
BROKAW: In August, 2003 , he returned home to his base and family.
Staff Sgt. WEAVER: What's up , squirt?
BROKAW: But in the years after he got home, Weaver was a changed man, physically and mentally, wrestling with injury, sickness and the stress of combat. Did you lose some friends?
Staff Sgt. WEAVER: Yeah, I did. So...
BROKAW: And since leaving the military, Weaver has been fighting the great recession.
Staff Sgt. WEAVER: I've been retired for a year. I still -- I'm still looking for work.
BROKAW: Weaver 's military pension barely covers the mortgage payments on his modest small town home . You think the country owes you something now?
Staff Sgt. WEAVER: The only thing I think that is owed to me is at least the opportunity to go to work for somebody and prove to them that somebody coming from the military has a lot to offer.
BROKAW: In small towns across America , like here in Big Timber , Montana , where they post the name of every young man and every young woman in this county serving in the military on signs on Main Street , they know what these returning veterans are going through. But nationally the unemployment rate for returning veterans is 13 percent, and for younger returning veterans, it's as high as 27 percent. Lester :
HOLT: Thanks, Tom.
This special edition of "Dateline: The Road Back " premieres Sunday at 7, 6 Central here on NBC .
LESTER HOLT, anchor: And one other note about America 's servicemen and women . The Pentagon today announced that after a decade of grueling combat deployments, often back to back, the Army has decided to reduce the length of war zone deployments from the usual one year to nine months. In addition, the Army will increase the amount times -- amount of time spent back home between deployments. Up next