Patriot act

Published 9:31 am Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Bonnie Swenson of Walters has been hired as a veterans employment representative to help all veterans — including the soldiers returning from Kuwait — find a job. About 20 percent of the Red Bull soldiers are unemployed. -- Sarah Stultz/Albert Lea

Bonnie Swenson’s eyes well up with tears when she thinks about her job.

Hired as a veterans employment representative through the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, Swenson will play a key role in the re-integration of soldiers returning home from Kuwait.

“These are our heroes,” she said. “These folks have given everything for us, and I want to make sure they have a decent lifestyle and that they can support their family and be happy.”

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For Swenson, of Walters, that means helping soldiers returning home find a job.

According to Swenson, about 20 percent of the soldiers in the 34th “Red Bull” Division of the Minnesota National Guard are unemployed. Across the Midwest, about 12 percent of veterans are unemployed.

She hopes to change that.

Veterans can meet with Swenson at the Minnesota Workforce Center to get help on resumes, interview skills and any other services. She will get them signed up through Minnesota Works, an online system where people can look for jobs and employers can post jobs.

She said most soldiers are quick learners, disciplined and have wonderful leadership. They have team skills and know advanced technology.

“There’s so much that they have to offer,” she noted.

A U.S. Army veteran herself, she is also meeting with employers to help them know about the value of hiring a veteran and is making sure veterans can convert military “lingo” into everyday language that all people can understand.

She worked in the same position for about six years in the late 1990s and early 2000s and is glad to be back.

“I just really want those veterans to know that they can get ahold of me and I can really help them,” she said.

She noted she thinks the job market is picking up in Albert Lea and said she has noticed more ads for jobs online and in the paper.

“I’m being cautiously optimistic that more and more will be opening,” Swenson noted.

She is in Albert Lea Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and then in Austin one day and Owatonna another.

To make an appointment or ask questions, people can call Swenson at 507-369-1473.