Joseph DeBose walked around the career and resource event bright-eyed with a briefcase in hand. He flashed a big smile at the potential employers sitting at their tables.
“This all looks pretty good. I’m keeping my eye on the Regional Transit System. I know about buses and things like that,” DeBose, 64, of Gainesville, said.
DeBose was one of 11 veterans who on Tuesday attended Paychecks for Patriots at CareerSource North Central Florida. This event is a career and resource fair held specifically for veterans.
The event, in its seventh year, has been held at CareerSource centers statewide and will continue through Nov. 15.
DeBose served in the U.S. Army for four years in the 1970s. He said he was a sharpshooter in the Vietnam War, and he earned a National Defense Award. He said this is the first veteran’s resource he has used.
“I don’t have a disability, and I’m fortunate, but what other resources are there for veterans who are doing fine but still need help?” DeBose said. “It kind of gets pushed to the side.”
He said he wants to work for as long as he can, and he hoped employers would be able to see the skills he possesses.
“It’s hard keeping pace with society. When you’re in the military, you only focus on it, and it becomes your whole being,” DeBose said.
In a Nov. 6 news release by his staff, Gov. Ron DeSantis restated his dedication to making Florida the “most veteran-friendly state in the country.”
Paychecks for Patriots is held by the Florida Deparment of Economic Opportunity, the Florida National Guard, the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs and the CareerSource Florida network, according to the release.
Dewayne McBride, 56, of Starke, is the local veterans employment representative at CareerSource North Central Florida. He works with local employers to promote the advantages of hiring veterans and secure employment for them.
McBride is a veteran himself. He worked for 10 years in The Old Guard.
“As a veteran, I look forward to helping other veterans overcome barriers in life,” McBride said.
One of the most important services CareerSource provides to veterans is assistance in presenting their skills to employers. The center also provides employment search, resume assistance, interviewing help and more.
“We help them market themselves better,” McBride said. “It helps them communicate and talk about their transferrable skills to the employers they come in contact with.”
McBride’s goal for the event was to have as many veterans as possible come so the center could put them in contact with employers that need their services.
Twenty-two employers offering a wide variety of jobs were at the event. Employment was being offered in different fields, including law enforcement, human resources, food service and sales.
“Our veterans are awesome employees — awesome, awesome people — and they have a great skill set to offer,” McBride said.
Garret Nuckols, 26, of Jacksonville, attended the event as a recruiter for the Florida Department of Corrections, and he is also a veteran. He served in the U.S. Coast Guard for a year before leaving for medical reasons.
Nuckols works with many veterans. He said more workplaces should hire veterans.
“I believe the military gives you a great foundation to be a better person,” Nuckols said. “Veterans carry themselves in a good way, and we need people who can teach structure.”
Nuckols said it might be true that Florida is the most veteran-friendly state.
“I don’t think veterans are mistreated here,” Nuckols said. “People in Florida recognize the ultimate sacrifice of signing that blank check to possibly give your life away.”
Elijah Hamilton, 67, of Micanopy, has been CareerSource North Central Florida’s specialist in their disabled veteran outreach program since August 2011. Hamilton helps veterans overcome barriers to get them ready for employment. He served in the military for over six years.
“I’m a veteran myself and what people don’t understand is what we’ve done, what kind of discipline we have on the job,” Hamilton said.
Hamilton said veterans have transferrable skills that can be used in most workplaces. He said the government needs a better understanding of the barriers veterans face when looking for jobs, but Florida is very veteran-friendly.
“We have more veterans transferring here than anywhere else in the nation, and there must be something more than just being the Sunshine State,” Hamilton said.
David Linch, 77, of High Springs, served in the Florida National Guard in the 1960s. He isn’t currently searching for a job, but he attended the event to find employers willing to hire veterans in case he decides to apply at a later date.
“I was a tank crewman,” Linch said. “I don’t know if that’s transferrable or not, but I’m sure there are skills learned in the military I can use in civilian occupations.”
Linch said he has used services at CareerSource North Central Florida in the past. He appreciates the resources that are provided for veterans in the state.
“We need to value our veterans highly,” Linch said. “We need to do everything to help them.”
McBride said he hopes to continue to meet the needs of veterans in the community, and he has an important message for the employers of north central Florida:
“Hire more veterans.”