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Are veterans’ skills under-employed in the workplace?

A new book, "For Love of Country," argues that Americans are not truly honoring the newest generation of veterans for their contributions to post-combat life. Chief foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Warner talks to co-authors Howard Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks, and Rajiv Chandrasekaran of The Washington Post about what we don’t understand about these servicemen and women.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    For all of today's tributes and ceremony, a new book argues that Americans are not truly honoring the newest generation of veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts for what they are capable of contributing to post-combat life.

    Chief foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Warner has more on that.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    It's the work of an unlikely pair, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, who has pledged to hire 10,000 veterans in the next five years, and Washington Post reporter Rajiv Chandrasekaran, who spent years covering U.S. fighting forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    The book is "For Love of Country: What Our Veterans Can Teach Us About Citizenship, Heroism and Sacrifice."

    Thank you both for being here.

    On this Veterans Day, we're honoring all our veterans, but you write in your book that we thank them, we applaud them, but we don't really know them. What is it about this post-9/11 generation of veterans that Americans don't understand?

  • HOWARD SCHULTZ, Starbucks:

    This is a very unusual situation, because this is the first time in modern history where there's been an all-volunteer service. Only 1 percent of the American population has served.

    So the unintended consequence of the all-volunteer service is most of Americans have not had a direct relationship with anyone who has served.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    But what is it that we don't understand about this generation?

  • RAJIV CHANDRASEKARAN, The Washington Post:

    So, with so few serving, it's created real misperceptions among the civilian population of our country.

    They see veterans often as people who are — need to be pitied, who are broken, who are ticking time bombs. And the reality couldn't be further from that. You know, seven generations ago, 1946 as members of that greatest generation were coming home, if your neighbor was out wandering the street at night, crazed from shell shock, you knew that not every veteran was crazy, because your husband or your son or your father or your brother served.

    Today, we don't have that universal shared experience in our country. So when people see news reports of a veteran doing something outrageous, like shooting up a base, there are a lot of people who think they're all like that, and it's — couldn't be further from the truth.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    But many have returned damaged, physically, or mentally, or psychologically. Do you think there's been too much focus on that?

  • HOWARD SCHULTZ:

    I don't think there's been too much focus on it, but there has not been enough focus on veterans who are returning who are doing extraordinary things.

    And that's another reason why we wanted to write the book, to celebrate the large number of veterans who are coming back into civilian life and can really make a difference in American society and in business. And one of the things that I'm significantly trying to encourage is for business and business leaders to hire veterans. It's good for the American economy and it's good for business.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    How difficult is it — Rajiv, you have been out reporting with many of these. How difficult is it for this generation of veterans to find meaningful post-military work and careers?

  • RAJIV CHANDRASEKARAN:

    For some of them, it's challenging because they're coming from a world where they have learned specialized skills. They have gleaned great leadership talents. They have values and ethics and problem-solving abilities, but some of that is not easily translatable in the civilian sector.

    So their resumes aren't fully understood by people in the human resources department. Why? Because a lot of those people don't have a connection to the military.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    What do veterans bring to the work table, to the workplace that if you hadn't served in the military you might not necessarily have?

  • HOWARD SCHULTZ:

    Everyone we have met, from an 18-year-old enlisted young kid to a four-star general, in my view, has had the same common thread of characteristics, authentic leadership, mission-driven, understood the issue of being on a team, highly ethical, great integrity, and brings a level of, not entitlement, but understanding that this is a privilege to work in a company.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    We actually went out and filmed one of the veterans that you profile if your book. This is David Oclander, lieutenant colonel, West Point graduate, paratrooper, leader, who is now at a Chicago inner-city charter school.

    And here's what he said about what he thinks he brings that's special to these kids he's mentoring and teaching now.

    LT. COL. DAVID OCLANDER (RET.) U.S. Army: When you're in Ranger school, you realize that you can push yourself so much farther than what you originally give yourself credit for.

    These kids face incredible obstacles every day, being recruited by gangs, trying drugs, doing — seeing street violence all the time. And getting them to believe that that doesn't define them, but that can be a way to shape their future going forward, and if they can overcome those obstacles through grit and determination and persistence, they can overcome any obstacle, I think that's the perspective that I bring.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    Is that the kind of thing you're talking about?

  • HOWARD SCHULTZ:

    Absolutely. He's helping them realize their dreams. He's giving them the kind of tools and resources and self-confidence to hopefully get to college as a result of the tutelage and the mentoring that he can provide.

    And he couldn't even get a job. That's the irony.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    Because he didn't have a teaching credential.

  • HOWARD SCHULTZ:

    So, they looked at him and said, you don't fit. And that's a very important point, because most of the veterans who are coming back do not have the specific qualifications for the job they're applying for.

    We heard a young — enlisted young man tell us that he would have more trepidation and anxiety about going to a job interview than going back to Afghanistan.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    Ooh.

  • HOWARD SCHULTZ:

    And I think, when we heard that, it really — it sets the image of the situation, that they just don't have any experience, and that's why it's so important that the company recognizes that they have great skills and great value, but they're not prepared for the interview, maybe not prepared to write the resume, and that's where the two have to come together and understand the situation.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    Now, Rajiv, I have to ask you. Your book has been criticized in some reviews as being relentlessly optimistic, and that some might find it overly positive and even naive. What do you say to that?

  • RAJIV CHANDRASEKARAN:

    Look, we're trying to just broaden the aperture on the overall veteran experience.

    There's been a lot of great journalism about those who have struggled into their transition, those who are undergoing mental and physical health problems. And we actually write about them in this book. What we do differently though is we also write about people who are thriving, who are succeeding.

    And if you want to criticize us for being relentlessly positive for writing about people who are working, as opposed to those who are just, you know, unable to get back up on their feet, well, guilty as charged.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    So, Howard Schultz, what can ordinary Americans do if they're not in a position to hire veterans?

  • HOWARD SCHULTZ:

    Yes.

    Volunteer. Get involved. When you see a veteran, it's not enough to say, thank you for your service. Have an empathetic conversation and get to know them as people. And then do everything we can as a collective society to raise the level of consciousness about the sacrifice that not only the veteran, but the entire family has given to this nation.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    Howard Schultz, Rajiv Chandrasekaran, thank you.

  • RAJIV CHANDRASEKARAN:

    Thank you.

  • HOWARD SCHULTZ:

    Thank you.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Online, check out Margaret's blog and a video on retired Lieutenant Colonel David Oclander, who turned down many lucrative private sector offers to become, as you just heard, an inner-city school educator.

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