US

As veterans return from war, their military experience is in demand on the nation's railroads

  • In this March 4, 2013 photo, Sandy Suver, manager of yard operations in Union Pacific's Council Bluffs yard and former military flight controller, right, talks to Phil Schafer, a remote control locomotive operator who is a 101st airborne veteran, in Council Bluffs, Iowa, Monday, March 4, 2013. As thousands of American soldiers return to the civilian workforce after service in Iraq or Afghanistan, many are finding jobs on the rail lines. More than 25 percent of all railroad workers nationwide have served in the  military. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

    In this March 4, 2013 photo, Sandy Suver, manager of yard operations in Union Pacific's Council Bluffs yard and former military flight controller, right, talks to Phil Schafer, a remote control locomotive operator who is a 101st airborne veteran, in Council Bluffs, Iowa, Monday, March 4, 2013. As thousands of American soldiers return to the civilian workforce after service in Iraq or Afghanistan, many are finding jobs on the rail lines. More than 25 percent of all railroad workers nationwide have served in the military. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)  (The Associated Press)

  • In this March 3, 2011 photo provided by Union Pacific, Mark Major poses in front of a locomotive in Oakland, Calf. Mark Major once led a team of soldiers in combat in Iraq. Now he leads a team of railroad employees. The difference, he says, is obvious: “I'm not getting shot at anymore.” As thousands of American soldiers return to the civilian workforce after service in Iraq or Afghanistan, many are finding jobs on the rail lines. More than 25 percent of all railroad workers nationwide have served in the  military. (AP Photo/Union Pacific)

    In this March 3, 2011 photo provided by Union Pacific, Mark Major poses in front of a locomotive in Oakland, Calf. Mark Major once led a team of soldiers in combat in Iraq. Now he leads a team of railroad employees. The difference, he says, is obvious: “I'm not getting shot at anymore.” As thousands of American soldiers return to the civilian workforce after service in Iraq or Afghanistan, many are finding jobs on the rail lines. More than 25 percent of all railroad workers nationwide have served in the military. (AP Photo/Union Pacific)  (The Associated Press)

  • In this photo taken on March 4, 2013, Sandy Suver, manager of yard operations in Union Pacific's Council Bluffs yard and former military flight controller, center right, conducts a crew briefing in Council Bluffs, Iowa, Monday, March 4, 2013. As thousands of American soldiers return to the civilian workforce after service in Iraq or Afghanistan, many are finding jobs on the rail lines. More than 25 percent of all railroad workers nationwide have served in the  military. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

    In this photo taken on March 4, 2013, Sandy Suver, manager of yard operations in Union Pacific's Council Bluffs yard and former military flight controller, center right, conducts a crew briefing in Council Bluffs, Iowa, Monday, March 4, 2013. As thousands of American soldiers return to the civilian workforce after service in Iraq or Afghanistan, many are finding jobs on the rail lines. More than 25 percent of all railroad workers nationwide have served in the military. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)  (The Associated Press)

As thousands of American soldiers return to the civilian workforce after service in Iraq or Afghanistan, many are finding jobs on the nation's rail lines.

More than 25 percent of all U.S. railroad workers have served in the military.

Veterans have a long history of railroad work. Civil War veterans, for example, helped complete the transcontinental railroad in the 1860s. Railroad opportunities are especially welcome now because the unemployment rate for recent veterans remains higher than for the rest of the nation.

Mark Major once led soldiers in Iraq. Now he helps manage intermodal freight trains in Oakland, Calif. He sought out a rail job because of the challenges and independence it offered and because he had known other soldiers who went to work for a railroad and liked it.