May 30, 2011; Source: Jackson Sun | More than 4,000 men and women lost their lives and an additional 31,931 were wounded in Operation Iraqi Freedom (through August 31, 2010), 36 have died and 171 have been wounded in Operation New Dawn (since September 1, 2010), and 1,475 were killed and 11,541 wounded in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.

But the nation often forgets that hundreds of thousands of military (and non-military DoD) personnel have served in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as other nations around the world, ranging from the Philippines to Yemen. As of 2010, there were about 2.2 million military veterans in what is called the “Gulf War-era II” (post-Kuwait, essentially). For many, it is life without gainful employment.

Statistics from the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Bureau of Labor Statistics on veterans employment conditions in 2010, released in March 2011, paint a sad picture: Young male veterans (aged 18 to 24) from the Gulf War era II had a 21.9 percent unemployment rate in 2010, 2 percent higher than the jobless rate of young male nonveterans, almost twice the unemployment rate (13.0 percent) for Gulf War era II veterans aged 25 to 34. About 530,000 Gulf War era II veterans report service-connected disabilities, but they had an unemployment rate of 11.2 percent compared to the unemployment rate for all Gulf War era II veterans without disabilities of 13.6 percent – disabled vets were doing better than their counterparts with finding jobs.

For those readers who think that government is useless, realize that 16.3 percent of Gulf War era II veterans were employed by the federal government compared to 8.7 percent of all veterans and 2.2 percent of nonveterans), and 15.6 percent of Gulf War era II veterans with disabilities worked for the federal government.

That’s what makes stories like the Jackson Sun’s piece about veterans trained for weatherization jobs unable to find jobs so sad. Nashville’s government-subsidized Operation Stand Down seems to be trying to do the right thing, partnering with Tennessee State University as well as a real estate developer to train veterans in weatherization up to EPA standards. Government’s obligation to provide training – and where appropriate provide jobs – cannot and should not be sacrificed to budget-cutters’ paralyzing fears of “big government.”—Rick Cohen