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thedrifter
12-16-08, 07:23 AM
Time to serve our vets, Eric Gioia says

BY JOHN LAUINGER
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER

Tuesday, December 16th 2008, 4:00 AM

Four years ago, Christopher Davidson, of Ridgewood, served in Iraq, coordinating artillery strikes as an Army specialist.

Last month, the 25-year-old former soldier, now unemployed, searched a listing of city jobs.

“I applied to every one that I thought I was qualified for,” he said last week.

Did he get any calls back?

“Not a single one,” he said.

City Councilman Eric Gioia thinks that should change.

Gioia (D-Sunnyside) is pushing the city to create an internship program that would help Davidson and other battle-tested veterans learn important career skills — and give them a chance to land city jobs.

Gioia met recently with Richard Newman, commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Veterans Affairs, to outline his plan for one-year city internships.

“The veterans returning home need more than parades. They need a fair shot at living the lives that they want,” said Gioia, whose proposal is based on a program that Los Angeles County created last year.

Gioia argued it would benefit the city to bring skilled military professionals into the bureaucratic fold.have led others in battle, people who know about responsibility, people who know about leadership,” he said. “Those are the qualities, as an employer, that you are looking for.”

Los Angeles County’s Veterans Internship Program has 73 participants. It provides 12 to 24 months of on-the-job training.

“The goal of the program is to give veterans the experience needed to compete for permanent positions,” said program coordinator Ann Gomez.

Interns get medical and dental benefits, and can earn $2,274 to $3,788 a month. Seven have already landed county jobs.

Davidson has worked in a fast food restaurant and in elevator installation since leaving the Army.

He said a city internship would help him transition from battlefield to career - a move that has been hindered, he said, by employers' misconceptions.

"I go into an interview and all of a sudden I am on the defensive," he said. "People think that I am going to have a flashback or I am going to order around employees. It's ridiculous."

Jopshio Lorenzo of Ridgewood, a Stuyvesant High School graduate who served in the Marines, said such an internship would help veterans get their foot in the door of city government.

"Since the job market is so competitive, this is something that would be very useful," he said.

The city employs more than 9,000 veterans, active service members and National Guard members, Newman said. The city also works with community organizations and with the City University of New York, among other sources, to expand opportunities for veterans.

"We are examining the councilman's proposal at this time," Newman said.

Despite the city's deepening fiscal woes, Gioia said the interns should get pay and benefits.

"The long-term benefit to the city is clear," he said.

Paul Rieckhoff, founder of New York City-based advocacy group Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said such a program is needed in the city.

"Vets need jobs - here in New York especially," he said. "We have been getting a lot of calls, especially in the last couple of weeks, from veterans who were laid off or are unemployed."

A federal study in 2007 found that nearly 18% of combat veterans, most of whom left the military in 2005, were unemployed in 2007, when the national jobless rate was less than 5%.

jlauinger@nydailynews.com

Ellie