Home from War: New group that helps vets needs your help

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DENVER -- They’ve served us, now we’re serving them.

FOX31 Denver and our sister station, Colorado’s Own Channel 2,  are launching a new project to help veterans.  We’re calling it “Home from War.”

We’ve been working on it for months, and in the coming weeks we’ll be reporting in-depth on the challenges returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan face. The obstacles they have to overcome, and what we all can do to help.

We’ve partnered with a brand-new Denver charity, Wounded Warriors Impacting Neighbors.  They’re just getting off the ground, and we’re glad to help.  But they need your help too.  They’re looking for donations and volunteers, to help provide services to the most severely wounded veterans returning from war.

Please check out their website to learn more.  http://wwin4warriors.com/.

Of course, one of the biggest challenges facing a returning soldier is the struggle to find a job.  By some estimates, the unemployment rate for the youngest returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans was as high as 30 percent last year.  And Thursday in Denver, we found hundreds of soldiers at a job fair looking for work.

The job fair, sponsored by Recruit Military http://recruitmilitary.com/, was at Sports Authority Field at Mile High Stadium.  And even for people who’ve spent the last few years in a war zone, a job fair like this can be a little intimidating.

Peter Aguilar has spent the last decade flying missions into, over, and around Iraq and Afghanistan.  Now he’s a civilian, and unemployed… living off severance and savings for the last six months.

"From the questions I've received (from potential employers), I believe they think that everyone's a grunt, we all have these weird discipline things, and we would not fit into society and into regular commercial jobs," Aguilar told FOX 31.

Helping them fit into commercial jobs is the goal of the Recruit Military job fair.  They brought together dozens of local employers with hundreds of servicemen and women, who may have a hard time explaining what it is they’ve done over the last few years in the military, and how those skills could make them a good civilian employee.

"Go talk to these people.  Don't be shy.  Go hold out your hand, tell them who you are, what you've done, do my skill sets line up?  We tell all these men and women, the best way to get a job is network," said John Lundeberg, Recruit Military’s Director of Events, who organized the job fair.

Army Master Sargeant Patrick Hill is trying to do just that.  He’s about to get out of the Army, after 28 years of service.  And he has no idea what he’ll do next.

"I've always enjoyed work, I want to work, so I'm looking for that next phase."

But the next phase can be overwhelming, for a segment of the population with an unemployment rate far higher than the national average.  The groupd of people coming home from war, only to face another fight: the fight for a paycheck.