WASHINGTON (NNS) -- The 2018 Wounded Warrior Hiring and Support Summit wrapped up this week on Wednesday at the Washington Navy Yard, bringing the total wounded warriors hired into the Navy Department alone to more than 13,000 since the annual summit's inception in 2010.
The two-day summit offered resume and interview preparation, career advice and resources for transitioning wounded warriors on its first day, then a hiring fair the second day where more than 40 DoD, Federal and commercial organizations offered career opportunities. The Navy Human Resources team alone conducted 64 on-site interviews.
"I want to highlight a few of the many accomplishments that have been made to date in supporting our wounded warriors," said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Manpower and Reserve Affairs, Robert Woods at a recognition ceremony that capped the summit. "The Wounded Warrior Hiring Initiative, this summit, and efforts by the systems commands have resulted in meaningful employment for 13,000 wounded warriors to date in the Department of the Navy alone. In the last four years, 25 percent of veterans that have been hired by the DON are wounded warriors."
Each year, coordination of the summit has rotated between Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA), Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) and Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR). As this year's coordinator, NAVSEA Commander, Vice Adm. Tom Moore recognized all involved in the hiring effort, but spoke specifically about the impact the summit has had on the NAVSEA organization.
"Since 2009, we've hired more than 5,000 Wounded Warriors," said Moore, "Our job is to find a safe, secure place with meaningful work where they can bring their talents to bear, and boy, they are doing it. Of the 5,000 people we've hired since 2009, 93 percent of them are still working for NAVSEA nine years later. I think those statistics are significant. It says it's a marriage made in heaven. We are providing them meaningful work for them to come in be challenged every day. I think they're enjoying working for NAVSEA, and we're absolutely thrilled to have them on the team."
Also in attendance at the ceremony was Amazon Career Advancement Executive Juan Garcia. In 2009, Garcia served as the Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Manpower and Reserve Affairs) and remembers the challenge he faced.
"How do you reintegrate this cadre of wounded warriors who in any previous American conflict could have come home in flag-draped coffins? How do you recognize that, reintegrate them into American society and, in many cases, back into our force?" said Garcia. "And that's what we wanted to do with this effort."
Woods shared that the Office of Personnel Management reports that the hiring of wounded warriors with a 30 percent or greater disability across all federal agencies rose from 12,926 in 2012 to almost 22,000 in 2016.
Results have not been limited to the federal government. Industry giants like Amazon, Starbucks, Boeing and many more have developed their own internal wounded warrior hiring units.
"The national unemployment rate for wounded warriors has dropped from nearly 20 percent to be on par, and sometimes lower than the general civilian rate," said Woods. "The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that post-9/11 veterans fell below four percent in February 2018, outpacing the civilian, non-veteran population.
The ceremony also featured one of the program's success stories. Gabe Ledesma's dream to be a career Marine came to an abrupt halt six years into his enlistment with an injury in Afghanistan. Ledesma overcame both physical and mental barriers before landing first an internship, then a position supporting wounded warriors in NAVSEA's Veteran and Wounded Warrior Program Office. Today, he works as a contracting specialists at Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division.
"There were so many who made it possible for me," said Ledesma. "If it weren't for many of those programs, I wouldn't be where I'm at right now. They all played a part. Everyone's path will be different. It might be two years. It might be five years. It might be a lifetime."
For more information of wounded warrior transition resources visit: http://www.navsea.navy.mil/Career-Opportunities/Veteran-and-Wounded-Warrior/Veteran-or-Wounded-Warrior-Opportunities/
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For more news from Naval Sea Systems Command, visit www.navy.mil/local/navsea/.