Amid the parties and hoopla that come with a Super Bowl, there is some serious business going on behind the scenes. There’s a drive under way to get more jobs for veterans.
Paul Rieckhoff is meeting and greeting as many business leaders as he can during the Super Bowl. He’s trying to lower the 11 percent unemployment rate that’s dragging down veterans of the Iraq and Afghan wars.
“If you really want to support the troops and support the vets — hire them. Whether you run a restaurant or a gym or a trucking company, these young men and women have been through a lot. And they’re tougher than any NFL linebacker, and they’re the types of folks you want on the front lines of your business. They’re great in teams. They’re disciplined. They have technical skills. They have a deep longing to serve.”
Rieckhoff is the founder and chief executive officer of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. The group now has 250,000 members nationally — 5,000 in Louisiana. He says veterans have also shown willingness to help out in times of disasters. He spent some time this week helping the St. Bernard Project restore a veteran’s home damaged during Hurricane Katrina. That group has been adding veterans to the work crews.
“New Orleans has become the model. So they’ve now built close to 500 home across New Orleans. And vets have really been ingrained in that entire process. So the lessons that we learned here post-Katrina are now being applied in Joplin and are now being applied in Staten Island and the Jersey Shore and the Far Rockaways. So the kind of disaster-response template that involves veterans and puts them at the forefront that was pioneered by St. Bernard Project is now scaling.”
Rieckhoff says veterans and their families are also having some fun in New Orleans. They’ve been invited to participate in pre-game and half-time activities during the Super Bowl.