President Obama at Honeywell plant
Staff Sgt Tony Zerwas
President Obama at Honeywell plant
GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. -- President Barack Obama used his official stop in Minnesota Friday to make the case for hiring more veterans.
"I believe that no one who fights for this country should ever have to fight for a job when they come home!" the President told a crowd of 1,000 who gathered at a Honeywell's plant in the Minneapolis suburb of Golden Valley.
He congratulated Honeywell for taking part in the Joining Forces program, a commitment by major manufactures to put more returning veterans to work.
"Honeywell has hired 900 veterans over the past year, and is employing 65 veterans here in Golden Valley, so give them a big round of applause. I'm proud of them."
Before delivering his formal remarks Obama toured the massive plant, and looked at equipment that cranks out 4,000 furnace oil regulators each week.
He said the economy has absorbed three million returning veterans since 9/11, but needs to embrace another one million in the years to come as America winds down its military presence in Middle Eastern war zones.
"Honeywell's doing this not just because it feels good. They're doing it because it's good for business, because veterans make outstanding workers," Mr. Obama remarked.
The president used the event to announce a new executive order, asking the Department of Defense to accelerate efforts to help military personnel gain professional certifications for equivalent civilian jobs.
"If you can save a life on the battlefield, you can save a life in an ambulance!" he said.
The president's stepped up focus on employment for veterans is a welcome move for those returning service members still seeking full-time work.
"For us it's invaluable," Iraq war veteran Tony Zerwas of Woodbury told KARE Friday.
"We signed up with the military knowing we'd have to make sacrifices. Unfortunately, not a lot of our thought that sacrifice would cost us jobs."
Zerwas has served more than four years in the Minnesota Air National Guard's 133rd Security Force Squadron, including a seven-month tour in Baghdad that ended in February of 2011.
In the 16 months since returning from Iraq, Zerwas has been trying to land a job in law enforcement.
"I've got a lot of family in law enforcement," he explained. "The ability to help and protect and serve my community really appeals to me."
But his experience in military security, enduring high stress decision making in Iraq, hasn't been enough to do the trick. A security job at a retail bank suddenly vanished when he was activated for a full-time National Guard assignment.
Tony has boosted his resume by working as a volunteer reserve officer at the Woodbury Police Department. He's working on a law enforcement degree at Inver Hills Community College.
He says he hopes employers take the President's message seriously, that veterans carry a strong set of credentials that should make them desirable candidates.
"We're extremely motivated and we're willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done," he said.
"I don't really believe in nine-to-five. I believe in staying until the job gets done. And that's something that the military has instilled in me."
Zerwas received some positive news recently. He's a finalist for a job with a Twin Cities area police department, and has one last interview to do in the next week.
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