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Too Many U.S. Service Members Are Returning Home to Unemployment

by Jill Biden and Jamie Dimon /
Image: Army's 3rd Infantry Division Returns Home From 15-Month Tour In Anbar ProvinceStephen Morton / Getty Images file

Jon Luzader joined the Army three months after September 11, at age 17. He was enrolled at Penn State University, but deferred college to serve what he felt was a higher calling. Jon was deployed to Iraq in 2004 with the 1st Infantry Division, participating in more than 150 combat support missions at the epicenter of the costliest conflict the United States has seen in a generation. He was overseas for over three years, making it home only a few times.

Jon left his military service a more focused man. He then picked up where he left off, earning a college degree in Information Sciences and Technology. He went on to consult with government agencies on how to build smarter software applications.

Ultimately, Jon invented a system that scrambles messages, making it harder for hackers and digital terrorists to access anything intelligible in emails, browsers or private messages on social media. He also founded a company called blink.cloud and, with the aid of a veteran business startup accelerator called Bunker Labs, was able to access professional networking resources that helped transform blink.cloud into a viable business.

By harnessing his passion, Jon was able to turn a great idea into a successful entrepreneurial endeavor. But many men and women who serve our nation have a much harder time finding their place when their tours of duty are over.

After risking their lives for our country, too many service members come home to unemployment or underemployment. It’s a fundamental injustice: The people who have sacrificed so much for our land of opportunity often can’t take advantage of the opportunities they fought to protect. We must do better.

The people who have sacrificed so much for our land of opportunity often can’t take advantage of the opportunities they fought to protect.

This Veterans Day, as we honor the incredible sacrifice of our military community, we must remember that our obligation to our service men and women and their families does not end when they take off the uniform. We must ensure that they can come home to support, resources and opportunities.

We all know someone who has served — whether our fathers or grandfathers who were drafted in wars of our nation’s past, or our sons and daughters, colleagues and friends who have served more recently. Though we’ve made great progress in hiring our veterans across our nation, much work remains.

Approximately one million service members will leave the military over the next five years, nearly a quarter of whom will likely try to start their own businesses. The vast majority of these will fail.

One solution is for companies to give veterans greater access to capital and networking. That’s why JPMorgan Chase has just announced $4.2 million in investments — through our nonprofit partners at Bunker Labs, Main Street Launch, PeopleFund and Carolina Small Business Development — to help provide veterans in five states greater access to capital, training and other services they need to be successful.

Committing to our veterans is not only the right thing to do. It makes good business sense. Veterans make excellent employees and business owners. In fact, the values that veterans bring to the table — character, leadership, teamwork, fortitude — align exactly with the principles that make one successful in running a business.

According to the U.S. Census, in 2007 around nine percent of all U.S. businesses were veteran-owned. In total, these businesses represented nearly six million employees and $1.2 trillion in sales. And we expect this number to continue to rise. Quite simply, veterans are a critical part of our nation’s economic engine. When we invest in them, we all go further.

The men and women of our nation’s military are courageous and hardworking. They deserve to come home to opportunities that will allow them to dream, grow and build a life worthy of their ambitions. Whenever we advocate for our military service members and their families, we live up to the ideals that we collectively value as a nation — and ensure that the people who fight for this country return to a place worth fighting for.

Dr. Jill Biden, the former second lady, is a JPMorgan Chase Military and Veterans Affairs External Advisory Council member. Jamie Dimon is chairman and chief executive of JPMorgan Chase & Co.

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