WAIKAPU - Vietnam War veteran Chris Bollman was among more than 100 Maui job seekers who attended a veterans-focused job fair at the King Kamehameha Golf Club.
Bollman, 57, called the event a "wellspring" of job opportunities.
"I've found four opportunities so far," he said about an hour into the event Thursday evening. "It's been very useful."
Army National Guard E5 Sgt. Dane Shiraki (from left) and Air National Guard Airman 1st Class David Holbert and his wife, Air National Guard Airman 1st Class Paula Holbert, check out the jobs available with county human resources specialist Jamie Adams on Thursday afternoon in Waikapu. Shiraki said that he served two tours in Iraq and had just returned from the Philippines. David Holbert said he just returned from Kuwait. They attended a “Hiring Our Heroes” event at the King Kamehameha Golf Club, part of a national push by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to encourage businesses to hire veterans. Forty Maui businesses participated in the job fair.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
The fair was part of a national push by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to encourage businesses to hire veterans. It was the first "Hiring Our Heroes" event for Hawaii.
The fair was co-sponsored locally by Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve's Hawaii office, the Hawaii Office of Veteran Services, the Maui Chamber of Commerce and the U.S. Department of Labor's Veterans' Employment and Training Service.
Forty Maui businesses participated, including general contractor Goodfellow Bros., Maui Electric Co., Maui Memorial Medical Center, the Maui Police Department, Oceanit Laboratories and Hawaii Pacific Solar.
Mayor Alan Arakawa attended the event and expressed gratitude to employers.
"Reintegrating service members after they serve must be a priority," he said. "It's incumbent upon us to make that reintegration as comfortable as possible."
He proclaimed June 14 "Hiring Our Heroes Day."
Maui County is home to more than 11,000 military veterans, according to data from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Lloyd Sodetani of the Hawaii Office of Veteran Services said veterans can sometimes feel "apprehensive" about applying for jobs.
"These guys are well qualified - disciplined, motivated, respectful and responsible," he said. "Here's an opportunity for them to come to a venue and see what's available and be around veterans in a similar situation. Hopefully, this will make them feel comfortable."
Longtime buddies and Army Reserve soldiers Michael Fujimoto and Brandon Gongora said being in the Reserve involves paid training one weekend a month, and longer training once a year, which has them seeking other employment.
"It's hard right now to find a job. Everything is super slow," Fujimoto, 23, said.
"People tell you, 'Oh, just go work at Burger King or Jamba Juice,' " Gongora, 26, added. "No offense, but I'm trying to look for a career. You want to find something you really want to do."
Representatives of technology firm Oceanit Laboratories were seeking candidates for a software architect opening and an electro-optical engineer for their Maui office.
"I'm a veteran, so I can appreciate what these job seekers are going through, and our company does a lot of military contracting, so it's good to have people who are familiar with the military," said Michael Bush, a senior software engineer for Oceanit.
"Working with military veterans, there's a lot of traits that are admirable," added Scott Gregory, also a veteran, and a program manager for Oceanit. "They're hardworking, dedicated people. They've got a lot of experience that you can't always pick up elsewhere."
Another "Hiring Our Heroes" job fair is planned for September at the Kona Farm Fair on the Big Island.
* Nanea Kalani can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.