Sgt. Mike Ruelas spent 16 grueling months serving overseas in Iraq. But like many enlisted men and women, nothing prepared him for what he'd find back home.
"It's a task that sometimes we're not ready for. Not a lot of vets are ready for it and that's why we have such a high suicide rate," he said. "One of the things you try to do is take it one step at a time."
With no job and no money, Sgt. Ruelas, a single father, was suddenly homeless, along with his three children. They lived out of a car for three months until he finally found work.
"The fact of the matter is, veterans have skills. A lot of times they just need someone to give them that opportunity," says Marie Galbraith, Program Manager for Veterans Services at Tampa Crossroads.
But getting that foot in the door isn't always easy. Despite federal tax incentives for companies to hire veterans, there are still job problems, especially for younger veterans who have served in the years since the September 11th attacks.
"It's about being able to explain to an employer all of the skills you've obtained while in the military while serving our country and being able to explain how that's transferrable in the civilian world." Galbraith said.
Unemployment for veterans in their 20s and 30s is much higher than the national average. More than 20 percent of veterans between 18 and 24 were unemployed last year.
"Being rejected, it's one of those things where, you can't give up." says Sgt. Ruelas.
And that determination finally paid off for him and his three children.
"I just look at my kids. And to show them that if you continue, be persistent and do the right thing, everything will work out in the end," he said.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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