DALLAS — Returning home from serving overseas has proven harder than many in the military likely expected as their new mission now is finding a job at home.
At least two North Texas companies, though, are getting recognition for recruiting a large number of veterans.
"It's a buzz all through the Department of Defense just how well Southwest treats veterans," said Capt. Ed Givens, a chief pilot at Southwest Airlines.
Capt. Givens flew fighter jets for the U.S. Air Force before joining the airline.
"By and large, when you hire a veteran you're going to get somebody with a good work ethic, somebody with good character, good integrity, very loyal," he added.
Southwest has hired almost 6,000 of them, which is about 13 percent of its work force.
"In a lot of ways, Southwest is a leader not just in aviation but business in general," said Justin Lebon, a recently-hired crew scheduler at Southwest's Dallas headquarters.
Lebon said his employer encourages and supports him while he's flying C-130s for the Rhode Island National Guard.
"It's a very pro-veteran company here," he said.
Hiring so many from the military has now put Southwest in the running for an award from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
It's competing alongside two dozen companies, including Willbros, a large electrical contractor which often performs work for Oncor.
Of the 700 Willbros employees in McKinney, 100 are veterans, said company spokeswoman Rosa Linda Perez. Most are in training to become linemen.
Nationwide, the unemployment rate is 7.8 percent. But for veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq in the last decade, that number is almost two points higher — 9.7 percent — and means it's even more challenging for them to find jobs.
That's why the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is recognizing companies like Southwest and Willbros that make it a point to hire so many heroes.
"There were a million unemployed veterans across the country with the draw down in Iraq, and what we're seeing in Afghanistan. We anticipate another million leaving the service in the next five years, so this is a critical time," said Bryan Goettel, a spokesman for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Businesses can only benefit from hiring veterans, he added.
"There are so many other intangible qualities — everything from discipline, to communication skills, to being team leaders to working in challenging environments," Goettel said. "If you hire a veteran, you know you're going to get someone who shows up to work on time."
These aren't charity cases, he noted, but rather meaningful careers for veterans looking to land a job.