More veterans than ever are looking for work these days.
Hire Our Heroes wants to get them working at a job fair scheduled Thursday specifically for vets.
"I pray my vehicle never goes down. I pray my health never goes bad," said retired Air Force Staff Sgt. Kelvin Bailey.
Worries like these are unusual for Bailey, who spent 20 years serving his country after high school. Work was just a part of life in the military.
"You have a readymade family wherever you go. It was just great," said Bailey. "You had no problems meeting people. If someone saw you were new to the base, they'd grab you up and say this is where you need to go to do this, do that. Anything you needed, someone was there to help you."
But Kelvin said since leaving the military, beginning a new career is challenging to say the least. He’s far from the glory days when he served as a crew member aboard Air Force One.
"This is the third veterans job fair I've been to and I haven't gotten a job through them yet," said Bailey.
He's not alone. Veteran unemployment rates still hover around nine percent, nearly three percent higher than the national average. While Bailey has many skills, including his work as a meteorologist for more than 10 years, he said his lack of a college degree seems to hold him back.
"My thinking was it would balance out," said Bailey. "My experience versus the degree – it just didn't work out that way."
He hopes Thursday will be different.
Bailey and nearly 1,000 other vets are getting a chance to be face to face with 65 local companies including USAA, Home Depot and even Apple. Fair officials said they expect at least 100 job offers to be made by the end of the day.
This time Bailey is determined to be one of them.
"I'm not giving up. All I need is a chance to prove myself," said Bailey.
The job fair runs from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. inside the Straz Center for the Performing Arts.