A quiet lobby of the Graham Aquatic Center illustrated one of the challenges in helping veterans transfer from military service to civilian life -- heroes don't ask for help.
Employment service representatives, social workers and admissions directors from education centers set up tables in the York City center, waiting to assist servicemen and women who never arrived at the Veterans' Resources Expo on Friday.
It was the kickoff event for Beyond Thank You, a new organization dedicated to helping veterans transition into the civilian workforce.
"We have a lot of businesses who want to help veterans, we just need veterans who want to be helped," said Kim Walsh-Phillips, an organizer of the event.
But resource materials were left untouched, stacked neatly next to posterboards advertising the ways
participating vendors could help the county's veterans.
"We want to help them, but they don't like asking for help," said Joan Shindel, an employer services representative for the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry who work works with veterans.
By the end of the expo, Beyond Thank You got to thank just one Marine.
Standing tall in a charcoal suit that had a Marines Corps pin attached to the lapel, a retired serviceman offered some insight as to why many veterans don't show up at such events.
"It's embarrassing," he said. "It's hard to say you can't find a job and ask for help."
He was stationed in Hawaii for 14 years before retiring from the Marines in 2006. Upon retiring, he worked in Honolulu as a security and anti-terrorism specialist.
It's not that the work isn't there -- he's aware of jobs in Washington, D.C., Baltimore and Philadelphia -- but he can't find work in York County.
"I need to stay in this area because I'm a single parent with a little boy in an intermediate school," he said.
He'd like a job in security or anti-terrorism, but he may have to broaden his search, he said.
Work ethic: Meredith Stone, HR generalist with Penn-Mar Human Services in Glen Rock, and Kellie Shumaker, owner of Alternative HR, recommended he condense his resume into one page, highlighting the skills acquired during his military background.
Both women, who serve as board members of the York Society of Human Resource Management and were representing the organization at the expo, agreed military service looks great on a resume.
"Their work ethic stands far above the general population," Stone said.
And that work ethic does lead to jobs, according to Vincent Jones, a veteran who works as a veterans employment representative for Pennsylvania CareerLink.
He said his primary job is to be an advocate, going to employers to find work for veterans.
In York County, many veterans have been placed in construction, information technology, heating and cooling, and welding jobs, Jones said.
Businesses that regularly hire York County veterans include Kinsley Construction, Magnesita, CSC Security, The Navy Depot, The U.S. Army War College, General Dynamics and more, he said.
"Most employers are very receptive to vets. They know vets have the attitude to get the job done, they take initiative and get the work done in time without too much hand holding," Jones said.
One of the many reasons to hire a veteran is for their reliability, the human resources representatives said.
"Their character as a whole, surviving all they've been through, really stands out," Shumaker said.
Challenges: But surviving all they've been through creates challenges in helping them transition to civilian life, according to Shindel.
Sometimes all it takes is a routine siren or a motorist quickly pulling up next to them at a red light to trigger symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder for combat veterans, she said.
For other veterans, the challenges are physical disabilities, said Zakiyya Morris, rehabilitation counselor with the state Department of Labor & Industry.
The latest statistics show more than 70 percent of disabled veterans are unemployed, she said.
"It can be hard for a veteran who's now in a wheelchair to accept he can no longer have a job that involves hand controls and operating heavy equipment," Morris said.
Another challenge veterans face is being aware of their benefits and filling out paperwork when they choose to go to school, said Sharon Christ, director of enrollment at Penn State York.
More than 80 veterans attend the local campus, which hosts 1,400 students. That number of veterans is lower than the 120 to 125 who usually attend the school each year, she said.
She's also noticed lower participation at events such as the veterans' expo.
"Very few show up. I don't know what that means for the county. But there are tons of resources in the community, and that's nice to see," Christ said.
-- Candy Woodall can also be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.