By the time the War Between the States ended, more than 600,000 combatants had died. With the war still in process, mothers, wives, sweethearts, sisters and daughters began the practice of “decorating” the graves of fallen Confederate soldiers with flowers.

Before long, these informal acts of remembrance spread across the reunited nation. On May 5, 1868, the commander of the Grand Army of the Republic called for “Decoration Day” to be formally observed each year. May 30 was chosen as the date of remembrance, since this was considered to be the optimal time for fresh-cut flowers.

Although the appellation “Memorial Day” was first substituted for “Decoration Day” in 1882, it did not enter widespread usage until after World War II. In 1967, federal law declared Memorial Day as the official name.  Following passage of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act by Congress in 1968, Memorial Day has been observed on the final Monday of May since 1971. Thus ends the brief historical background of this important day.

Many young men and women have died in our nation’s service since the Civil War. During World War I, nearly 125,000 U.S. personnel died. This number more than tripled to nearly 425,000 by the end of World War II. The Korean War produced 35,000 dead U.S. personnel, while nearly 60,000 died in the Vietnam War.

Unfortunately, neither wrong nor aggression agree to reside only in the storied past. Instead, they boisterously intrude upon the present, reminding us freedom and liberty can never be taken for granted.

It is our great good fortune brave young men and women continue to answer our nation’s call to service. There is no more noble call to answer than the defense of the defenseless. Currently, nearly 2.5 million active and reserve personnel serve in the U.S. armed forces to “fight and win our Nation’s wars.”

Since the beginning of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, more than 2 million personnel have served in these battle theaters. Just as these men and women have stood by their obligations to our country, we must stand by our obligations to them by providing support after they have returned to civilian life.

During this time of year when employers seek to recruit graduates of elite educational institutions, they should consider returning veterans with even greater eagerness.

U.S. military veterans resume their civilian lives as members of a uniquely cohesive, dedicated and skilled team. The skills developed and the ethos practiced in the military are universally deployable to workplaces across America, to help individual businesses succeed and power our economic recovery.

Rather than looking at hiring veterans as a charitable act, employers should realize by hiring a trained vet they will get someone of significant value for their organization.

Returning veterans will require varying levels of assistance. The level of support may be highest for the more than 20,000 veterans who have been wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan.

As a regional director of Disabled Veterans Insurance Careers (“DVIC”), I can personally speak for the good work being performed by this organization. DVIC is a non-profit that educates and trains disabled veterans to work in the insurance industry. Training is designed to prepare them for jobs as customer service representatives, producers, sales managers and senior account executives. DVIC helps disabled veterans get licensed in our dynamic industry, so they can embark upon meaningful career paths.

DVIC’s main goal is to create meaningful and gratifying employment opportunities for men and women who have risked everything for our nation. Although headquartered in Fort Myers, Fla., the organization serves disabled veterans nationwide.

As reported in The New York Times, the unemployment rate for veterans who joined the armed forces following 9/11 is higher than the civilian rate, while the homeless rate for these veterans is significantly higher than it is for civilians. So we have work to do in supporting veterans’ efforts to get work.

To source returned veterans as potential employees for your organization contact your local USO and service organizations.

Powered by the National Resource Directory (NRD.gov), the Veterans Job Bank is another resource. It provides veterans with a central source for identifying veteran-committed employment opportunities and assists companies in identifying qualified veterans. 

The Veterans Job Bank returns job opportunities based on search criteria entered by the job applicant. Using a Google search, jobs are drawn from various job boards that have posted or specifically tagged jobs for veterans.

To learn how your firm can add your job listings to the Veterans Jobs Bank, visit the Instructions for Employer Participation page.

The NRD has also created the Veterans Job Bank Widget. This utility allows Veterans to conduct a job search without leaving your website. You can get the Veterans Job Bank Widget for your website by visiting the Job Search Widget page.

While our military service members represent less than 1% of our population, they make an oversized contribution to our nation’s well being. By providing the means to support themselves and their families, we all can begin to repay our debt.