They're thankful to make it home safe, but upon their return, scores of veterans can’t land a job.

In fact, unemployment for veterans in Wisconsin is at double the state’s 6.7 percent rate.

Wisconsin's secretary for veterans' affairs acknowledges those numbers must change.

There are too many, like Jon Zech, who once fought for freedom only to find themselves forced to fight for a paycheck.

When he returned to Wisconsin, Zech found that his four years of military service, including 15 months on the front lines in Iraq, didn’t seem to be an ideal fit for most employers.

"People want you, you're a veteran, have some pride in that, but the reality was, when I got home it wasn't as optimistic as they made it seem," remembered Zech.

"Even though I was in a combat MOS [Military Occupational Specialty}, I mean just the discipline, the leadership, things like that, I think put me above most civilians," added Zech.

Zech is far from alone.

In Wisconsin, more than 12,000 veterans are jobless, with the largest portion of that number having fought in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Wisconsin Veterans’ Affairs Secretary John Scocos said he wants veterans to know his department is able to offer personalized service to struggling former service members.

"With over 12 percent unemployment, we need to do something," said Scocos. "So a young veteran who has a specific skill, we can get them to come to that specific employment benefit fair, knowing that his resume will meet the needs of some of the employers there so we can get him interviews."

And to the veteran who says he or she has tried everything and is still unemployed, Scocos says, "Get us working for you. That's what you pay us for, that's what you serve for. We need to get back and serve you."

For Jon Zech, a shortage of options left him lost in a sea of applicants.

The Fort Atkinson resident is pursuing a marketing degree at UW Whitewater, but even summer work hasn't been easy to find.

With a five year old son to feed, he's hoping someone calls him back soon.

And he isn’t being hard to please.

"I don't care, it can be anything," said Zech about his work preferences. "I'd like to be doing something outdoors. So it's just whatever at this point."

It's expected that veteran unemployment numbers could rise, as the wars wind down and soldier commitments end.

The Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs is holding four business symposiums around the state to try to help employers find the right roles for veterans.

In addition, 16 job fairs are being sponsored for those who served.

One of those 16 job fairs is coming up on Friday, June 8, at Edgewood College.

Those seeking more information can call 1-800-WIS-VETS or go to the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs web site at

In addition, veterans coming home are filing for disability benefits at a historic rate.

Government officials say that 45 percent of the 1.6 million Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have filed.

That can be compared to the estimated 21 percent who filed for benefits after the Gulf War in the 90s.