Helping veterans make the transition into the civilian workforce

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HUNTSVILLE Ala. -- Transitioning into civilian life after serving in the armed forces can be difficult. Veterans have many things to adjust to and for some, that includes finding a new job.

"I decided to serve and join the army because I needed direction, I needed structure," said Sergeant Major Heather Smith, of the Space and Missile Defense Command. "I needed to go and do something greater."

Now, almost 25 years later Smith is transitioning out of the Army. She said she's excited but could use some help.

"Because there's a lot that we do in the Army that is difficult to transition into civilian terms when you haven't spoken in civilian terms in a long time," Smith said.

Smith went to 'Warriors to the Workforce.' In its fifth year, the event is part of the American Freedom Foundation's nationwide initiative to help veterans, transitioning military service members and military spouses find meaningful employment.

"Because we owe them, you know. They're out there they fought for the freedoms that we enjoy right now in our daily lives," said Ted Hacker, co-founder, and president of the American Freedom Foundation. "They come out of the service and they're like a deer in headlights."

The event brings together companies from around the country. Attendees have the chance to talk with employers, participate in job interviews, have their resumes reviewed and attend professional development workshops.

"It's about giving back. The veterans and their families did a lot," said Jack Tilley, co-founder of the American Freedom Foundation. "And I want to do my small portion as much as I can till the day I die to help as many as I can."

The event helps veterans and their families connect with employers who value their experiences and help them find their next path.

"A mentor of mine once taught me; you spend the first third of your life learning, the second third of your life earning, and the last third of your life returning. And it's upon each of us to figure out how we want to return back to society," said Lieutenant Colonel Susan Smeltzer, of the United States Army.

Many of the companies said veterans have skills that may not be listed on a job posting but are just as valuable, maybe even more so.

"We understand that our success isn't done alone, and it's all apart of the team," Smith said. "We can do anything. We really can."

The American Freedom Foundation has had more than 5,000 veterans and 400 companies at their events across the country. They have events twice a year in the Rocket City. Their next hiring event will be in March.

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