When Benjamin McCann returned home to Methuen, Massachusetts, this past April after serving two tours of duty in Iraq, the 25-year-old Marine knew he'd face some obstacles, but he never thought finding a job would be one of them.
"I figured, 'Oh, I'm a former Marine, a veteran. [I'll] just write it on an application, all my credentials, everything I'm qualified to do. ...There's got to be something out there,' " McCann said. "So far, it's been nothing but dead ends."
Although his primary military job was as a motor transport vehicle operator, McCann had hoped that his training and experience as a Combat Lifesaver in Iraq would have qualified him for work as an EMT. But he soon learned that despite his training and hands-on experience treating wounded Marines, he still lacked the state certifications necessary to do such work in the civilian world.
(Learn about other veterans' issues and sign the petition for BRAVE, the Bill of Rights for American Veterans, here.)
"When I first found out that it wasn't good enough, I was kind of a little discouraged," he said. "I went through all this training, and here I am getting shot down for jobs that I thought I was qualified for."
Ben's story is not unique — not even in the McCann household. Ben's brother Alex, 26, also served in the United States Marine Corps and returned home in August. He, too, has had difficulties finding employment. Alex was initially hoping that his training and time served in Iraq would have qualified him for immediate work in law enforcement, but his brother's experience taught him otherwise.
"I wanted to be a police officer, but I knew from the beginning — knowing what Ben had to go through — that I wasn't going to be qualified the way that they needed me to," he said.
The brothers registered for classes that would help provide the necessary training and certifications necessary for careers with the police and fire departments. That was a good first step, but none of it helped them find work in the near term.
"The bills keep piling up, but no paychecks come in," Ben told MTV News.
This August, dismayed by Ben's difficulty finding work — and knowing Alex was soon to return home as well — their father, Richard McCann, decided to take the issue to the steps of Methuen City Hall. "I got frustrated with seeing Ben so frustrated," he said, "and that's when I started knocking on doors. I had attended a few meetings and voiced my opinions about the returning veterans and how we could help them." (Read more about our interview with the McCanns on the Newsroom blog.)
Jeanne Pappalardo, a first-term member of the Methuen City Council, decided to act after hearing McCann's plea. She put forth a resolution aptly named Veteran Preference for City Employment, a resolution that would make it easier for veterans to find work with the city of Methuen. Just last month, the Methuen City Council unanimously passed the resolution.
"[Veterans] can come into City Hall ... get an application, fill out the application for any type of a job that they feel as though they are qualified to do, and put their name on this list," Pappalardo told MTV News. "If something becomes available, they will be called upon first."
Although many cities and towns already give preference to veterans in their hiring practices, Methuen's measure took the additional step of codifying it in the city's laws and creating a signup list for unemployed veterans.
"I felt as though that this would act as maybe a little bit of a comfort level for the veteran, knowing that their name is somewhere on a list here in the city of Methuen," Pappalardo said.
Though veterans aren't the only ones feeling the brunt of the global economic downturn, Ben and Alex think veterans should be pushed to the front of the line for employment opportunities. "I think the vets should still be taken care of," said Alex, who has signed up on the City Hall list with his brother. "We went over to do what we had to do. Now I think back home we should be taken care of."
The Veteran Preference resolution has done just that for Methuen's veterans, and it may soon do the same for returning vets in other cities and towns. Pappalardo told MTV News that several other municipalities had asked for a copy of the resolution to help them come up with similar legislation, which she gladly provided.
"I just feel as though it is a token of our appreciation," she said, "for their dedication, fighting the war for us, keeping America free. And I think that's the least we can do for them."
To help make BRAVE a reality, head to ChooseOrLose.com and sign your name so the next president knows that taking care of our young vets is a priority for this country.
Don't miss "A Night for Vets: An MTV Concert for the BRAVE," presented by MTV's Choose or Lose campaign and CNN to support veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The show features performances by 50 Cent, Ludacris, Kanye West, Hinder, Saving Abel and more, and airs Friday at 8 p.m. ET on MTV.Head to Choose or Lose for nonstop coverage of the 2008 presidential election, including everything from the latest news on the candidates to on-the-ground multimedia reports from our 51 citizen journalists, MTV and MySpace's Presidential Dialogues, and much more.