About 1,350 Oregon National Guardsmen will return without jobs in May, according to the state representative
By Geoff Pursinger
Tigard’s representative in the Oregon House is doing what she says needs to be done.
Rep. Margaret Doherty has been making the rounds in Tigard, attending City Council meetings, chamber of commerce events and walking into local businesses with a question that many in the last several months have been asking — “Hey, are you guys hiring?”
But the state congresswoman isn’t asking for herself, she’s worried about the roughly 370 Washington County residents who are on their way home from Iraq.
The 41st Infantry Brigade Combat Team, an element of the Oregon Army National Guard, headquartered in Tigard, began returning home this month. The first soldiers landed at Fort Lewis, Wash., on April 3.
But rather than throw some kind of lavish celebration — which, rest assured, is coming — Doherty said she’s looking for something a bit more substantial as a way to say thank you.
“Only about 50 percent (of 41st ICBT soldiers) will have jobs when they get back,” Doherty said at a recent City Council meeting, where she asked councilors to do whatever they could to help find jobs for returning vets both in the city and in their private businesses. “You’re movers and shakers in the community … Anything you can do to find part-time, full-time, or temporary work would be great.”
About 3,400 soldiers are currently serving in the 41st,from across the state and into Washington and Idaho, Doherty said. About 2,700 are currently finishing up a 10-month stint in Iraq.
The soldiers drove more than 8 million miles escorting more than 7,000 logistical convoys, according to Brigade Commander, Col. Dan Hokanson. They survived numerous roadside bombs, small arms and indirect shootouts.
The return of the 41st marks the end to the largest deployment of the Oregon Army National Guard unit since World War II.
A section of Highway 26 is named after the 41st ICBT’s nickname, “The Sunset Division.”
“There are so many things that could be done,” Doherty said. “Whether its donating gas cards for gas to Fort Lewis, mowing their front yards, donating your frequent-flier miles, anything.”
Doherty, who was raised in a military family, said that honoring the troops is just the right thing to do.
“If you would have asked me 35 or 40 years ago, during Vietnam, I’d have had a different attitude,” she said. “I don’t like war, but that doesn’t mean you don’t honor the warrior. Period.”
So far, Doherty said that she’s talked to about 15 local businesses.
“It’s not a formal thing, just sort of word-of-mouth,” she said. “Whenever I go into a store I just ask them if they have any jobs, and give them some numbers to contact.”
Washington and Clackamas counties both have “hire a vet” programs, as does the state and federal government.
But Doherty said that some people haven’t been as receptive to the idea.
“Sometimes they just roll their eyes,” she said. “But I’m just small potatoes.”
This isn’t the first time Doherty has talked about the 41st.
During this year’s legislative session, her first year in the Oregon Legislature, Doherty carried House Resolution 100, which honors the combat brigade and their families by naming May 8, 2010, as Military Family Appreciation Day.
During the signing of the bill, she printed out 200 photos of 41st IBCT soldiers, to show legislators specifically what they were voting for.
Doherty is expected to meet with Chamber of Commerce members today (Thursday).
The Tualatin Veterans of Foreign Wars is planning a homecoming parade for the troops and their families, scheduled for Sept. 11, with a parade starting from Tigard City Hall, followed by a family fair celebration at Cook Park.
For more information on that event, visit the Tualatin VFW Web site, www.tualatinvfw.com.