As Veterans Day approaches, there's a big challenge for those who served and sacrificed. It's tough to find a good job back home.
And with more than a million soldiers expected to leave the military through 2016, it's not getting any easier.
That's why a Galesburg event is trying to reverse that trend.
Navy reservist Elias Walter is a man on a mission these days. Just back from deployment to Guantanamo Bay, he wants to land a civilian security job.
"To have a job to make money every month," he recalled. "And then come back and not make any money. You've kind of got to fend for yourself."
That's why the reservist, 22, comes to the Carl Sandburg College gym on Friday. He's attending the West Central Illinois Veterans Job Fair. It's a new event designed to help veterans contact more than 30 employers under one roof.
"We don't want them to be out in the cold," said Pam Wildermuth, sales and marketing director for B.D.i. Screen Manufacturer in Galesburg. "We hope they come out and at least put in applications and talk to us."
Since unemployment for veterans nearly doubles the civilian rate, these resources are more important than ever. It's a fresh start at a new career.
For Charles Smith, it's a chance to match military skills with a civilian job. The Stronghurst man operated heavy equipment during four years in the Marines. But transitioning those skills from Afghanistan to Illinois isn't easy.
"Hopefully it will open up some opportunities," he said. "Get out some resumes."
"It's very difficult for him," added his wife, Kayla Smith. "We're trying online searches and stuff. It's really great that they had a job fair today."
The Galesburg community is doing its part to reverse high unemployment facing veterans. It's a new appreciation for the skills and loyalty that veterans offer.
"I think it's very important," Walter concluded. "It makes us feel more appreciated for the things we do."
For Elias Walter, a noble mission to land a civilian job.