Union, School, SIU-Contracted Companies

Help Lead the Way for Military Veterans


September 2011


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In response to the sometimes-overwhelming hurdles that veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are facing upon returning from overseas, President Barack Obama has proposed a new tax credit that would benefit employers that hire veterans.


The $120 million dollar credit will encourage companies to hire these returning warriors, who at present face a disproportionately high unemployment rate. The unemployment rate for veterans in July was 12.4 percent whereas the national unemployment rate was 9.1 percent for the same time period.


The new tax credit plan, dubbed the “Returning Heroes Tax Credit,” would give companies and businesses a $2,400 credit for each veteran hired who has been unemployed for less than six months. The credit doubles for hiring those who have been out of work for more than six months.


While many businesses see added incentive to hire those who have fought for their country, the SIU and a number of its contracted companies are far ahead of the curve on this front, according to union officials and members of the staff at the Paul Hall Center in Piney Point, Md. For example, more than 200 veterans have taken classes at the school this year, and more than 1,200 have enrolled in courses at the Paul Hall Center since April 2008.


“Civilian life and the military life are two different worlds, especially if your entire career had been in the Navy like me,” said J.C. Wiegman, director of vocational education at the Paul Hall Center and Navy veteran. “Most veterans look for work that is close to their training and that’s why the merchant marine is attractive to Navy and Coast Guard veterans. We speak the same language, we have worked together. A seaman on a ship is the same whether it is a combatant or non-combatant. We all need to do our part to assist them more.”


At any given time, there are numerous veterans of all branches of the armed services going through training at the Paul Hall Center and working aboard civilian and military support vessels under the SIU colors.


Unlicensed Apprentice (UA) Christian Bryant, a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, points to several experiences and skills obtained while he was serving our country that have helped him adjust to life as a merchant mariner.


“There are a lot of similarities between my military training and the training I’m doing here at the school,” said Bryant. “The discipline, the attention to detail, and the structured lifestyle are all things that I’m used to.”


UA Matthew Bailer, a U.S. Navy veteran, agreed that the discipline one learns in the military is a real asset for preparing for a life at sea.


“The discipline is important if you’re going out to sea,” Bailer said. “You need to learn to get along and work together.”


Bailer also pointed out that work ethic, a trait that is driven into service members during their military careers, is alive and well at the school and very important.


“The work ethic I’m learning at the school is similar to what I learned in the military,” said Bailer. “If you can’t work hard, you won’t make it at the school.”


American veterans are returning to civilian life in vast numbers and they are ready and willing to work. The SIU, the Paul Hall Center, and SIU-contracted companies are thankfully already leading that charge.


“It’s a great thing to know for sure that I’ll be working when I leave the school,” said Bryant. 


The school also remains ready to help anyone looking to upgrade who meets the school’s eligibility requirements.


“There’s room for advancement if you’re ready to work hard and apply yourself,” Bryant noted.


Veterans at the Paul Hall Center, like Bryant and Bailer, are ready to get to work.


“I’m looking forward to working,” said Bailer. “I know what to expect and as long as I hold up my end of the bargain, I’ll be doing well by the time I leave.”


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