Menu

MILITARY

Georgia veteran overcomes tough employment odds

 

The job market is tough. 

Unemployment numbers top the headlines. And if you're a veteran -- chances are you have an even harder time finding a job. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, veterans suffer about a 4 percent higher unemployment rate than the average American -- if they enlisted after Sept. 11, 2001.

That’s a whopping 12 percent for men and women who proudly served our country. For years, Army Specialist Kareem Walston fell into that statistic. After getting his knee blown out in the line of duty in Iraq, he came back to his home state of Georgia where he underwent multiple knee surgeries and treatment for his post traumatic stress disorder.

“When I came home, I felt lost,” Walston said. “I really didn’t know where I fit back in yet as far as coming home work; find a new place to live, getting back into my family, my friends and my community.”

At the same time, he couldn’t hold down a steady job.

“There are employers who are reluctant to hire a veteran who requires the need to go to the doctor, appointments and counseling sessions. Especially dealing with post traumatic stress disorder,” he said.

His escape was the garage. That’s where he would spend most of his time – learning and repairing motorcycles. That escape on two wheels drove him straight to a local technological college.  instructor Ben Pendley says Walston was a model student.

“A lot of the guys who have been in the military veterans, they’re on top of it,” said Pendley, a Chattahoochee Technological College Instructor. “They’re not the ones sitting in the back of the classroom trying to text somebody. They’re there studying.”

After two years, Walston graduated with a perfect GPA. Today, he’s officially a small business owner. The doors open to his own motorcycle days from now. His business partners are also both veterans.

“Going into business with fellow veterans and service members, they understand me and can relate where I’m coming from while a lot of other employers don’t really know about it really don’t want to learn about it,” Walston said.

They’re keeping the name simple: 2 Dudes and a Chic Motorsports.

If there is one underlying theme its patriotism. Walston says the freedom to run his own business is the sort of personal freedom he fought for in the first place when he enlisted.

“I did go to war. I fought and I bled for my country. I did a lot of things that most people can’t do or wouldn’t want to do in the name of freedom. To be able to do that be able to come home and enjoy what I did fight for -- it really feels good,” he said.

Elizabeth Prann currently serves as a Washington-based correspondent for Fox News Channel (FNC). She joined the network in 2006 as a production assistant.