Survey: Many Reservists Lose Jobs After Deployment

By: Whitney Daniel
By: Whitney Daniel

Knoxville (WVLT) - The US Labor Department has handled more than 1,500 complaints from Reservists and National Guardsmen returning from Iraq who can't get their full-time jobs back.

Volunteer TV's Whitney Daniel takes a look at how local soldiers factor into those national statistics.

Thousands of men and women with the 278th Tennessee National Guard, the 134th Air National Guard deployed to Iraq two years ago.
When they went overseas, they left behind their families, their friends, and their jobs. Now a year after being back and getting back into the swing of things, many are thanking their employers for such a smooth transition.

Meet Ralph Adcox. He's a safety and loss prevention manager at Ryder. Robby Copas is a master firefighter with the Knoxville Fire Department. They're two different men with two different jobs and one common thread:

"I've been in the military 18 1/2 years," Copas said.

Copas is a Master Sgt. with the 134th Air Refueling Wing. Adcox is a First Sgt. with the 278th Tennessee Army National Guard. When both returned home from deployment to Iraq, they found their jobs waiting for them.

"It takes the burden off of you and your family members to know you're going to go back to work a full-time job when you get off of active duty," Adcox said.

"Same position, same spot on my truck, no problems whatsoever," Copas said.

But some do have problems. According to the U.S. Labor Department: 70 percent lose benefits, their position, even their job.

"Upsets me because I know that adds an extra burden on folks that are going into a place that they don't need an extra burden," Copas said.

"It's tough for them and their families knowing that they might not get their jobs back, or the same positions they had and the same salary and all that stuff, even though it's federal law that they're supposed to," Adcox said.

The Uniformed Services Employment and Re-Employment Rights Act protects the right of civilian soldiers to reclaim their employment after deployment.

"Fortunately, employers in East Tennessee, especially the Knoxville area, have been really good," Adcox said.

Ryder paid Adcox a salary differential and continued 401-K contributions.

"But not having to worry about not having a job when you get back is just a great feeling," Adcox said.

"I love this department, just glad I'm here and they've been really good to me," Copas said.

Both Copas and Adcox say their hearts go out to fellow soldiers who haven't been so lucky. It is law that these employers have to hold those jobs for military employees or give them an equivalent position.


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