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Witness Testimony of Hon. W. Suzanne Handshoe, Mayor, Kendallville, IN

Congressman Stutzman,

Thank you for the opportunity to be here today to discuss the very important issue of Veterans employment.

I would like to share some of my own experiences both good and bad and those of family members.

First, I am a retired Marine Corps Chief Warrant Officer Four.  When I returned to Kendallville after Desert Storm the economy was weak and jobs were not easy to find.  I found a job as a temporary at Kraft foods while I worked on my degree. 

During the mid 1990’s while an active Marine Corps Reservist and Desert Storm Veteran, I applied for a position as a case worker with the Department of Family and Children.  During the interview process I was asked if I had to attend any training that would require me to be absent.  I explained that I would be gone for a minimum of two weeks training usually in the summer months and occasionally maybe longer to attend educational requirements of my rank.

I was flatly told that it would be unfair to the other members of the staff to pick up my case load for two weeks plus two weeks of vacation.  It just wouldn’t be fair.

Needless to say I did not get the job.

The North East Indiana Special Education Cooperative hired me because I was a Marine. The Executive Director was a former Marine and felt I could handle any challenge he threw my way.  When I was activated in 2003 for Operation Enduring Freedom, as a Casualty Assistance Officer, they held my position and were extremely supportive of not only me but my family.

As Mayor, we have had a Councilman deploy twice in the past few years to Afghanistan and Iraq.  We supported him in any way we could during his absence.  We also had a Firefighter activated for duty in Afghanistan.  Obviously his position was held and welcomed him back to our ranks upon his return.  The City of Kendallville was recently awarded the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve “Above and Beyond Award” for our support shown to our military members.

A great story of patriotism is my brother in law he is employed by Graphic Packaging in Kendallville.  He joined the Army due to the events of September 11th and served for 5 years with 3 combat tours.  When he was Honorably Discharged, Graphic Packaging not only gave him his job back, they gave him the five years seniority of his service time.

Shouldn’t we be recognizing or rewarding companies who follow these actions?

Last year my husband, Randy Handshoe interviewed for a teaching position at a Middle School, the panel looked at his resume and commented that he was in the Navy Reserve. He answered “that is correct”.  One of the members then asked “Does this mean you could be deployed?”  He responded with “yes, every person that wears a uniform has this risk”.  The next comment was, “Where would that leave us”? Needless to say he was not hired.

Randy did receive orders several months later and was called to duty December 26th 2010 and is still serving as a Chief Petty Officer with the Staff Judge Advocates office in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

What is troubling to me is that he will return at Christmas with no job, and he holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Education.

I’m certain that I have other constituents that are having trouble finding work, or worse, not being offered work because they are reservists who have seen multiple deployments or the threat exists they will be called to duty.

 As the war continues it is no longer fashionable to support our military members. Perhaps some consideration should be given to incentivize companies through tax credits, that who do hire Veterans.  

Respectfully.