TIME the backstory

Photojournalism Daily: Nov. 13, 2014

Photojournalism Daily is a compilation of the most interesting photojournalism found on the web, curated by Mikko Takkunen

Today’s daily Photojournalism Links collection highlights Maxim Dondyuk‘s work on tuberculosis in Ukraine. While not recent, they have been newly published on Paris Match‘s photo blog. Ukraine is designated as one of 18 “high-priority countries” by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, with some 42,000 absolute cases in 2012. The photographs, made in prison and hospital wards in the eastern region, powerfully illustrate the country’s battle with the disease and make it hard to imagine how things could improve as the brutal civil war rages.


Maxim Dondyuk: Tuberculosis in Ukraine (Paris Match L’Instant)

Peter Nicholls: Hunger amid tragedy for South Sudan refugees (Al Jazeera) These photographs draw attention to the plight of South Sudanese refugees in neighboring Ethiopia.

various photographers: Snapshots of Veteran Life Across America (Time.com) TIME collaborated with the Everyday USA photo collective to document veterans stories from all over America.

John G. Morris (CNN) The legendary photo editor speculates on alleged new information regarding the Robert Capa’s famous D-Day pictures.

War photographer Jason Howe’s battle with PTSD (The Telegraph) Sober portrait of a photographer processing years spent on the front lines. Text by Jessica Salter. Video by James Arthur Allen.

First Hassleblad camera in space to be auctioned by NASA (The Washington Post Insight) The fascinating tale of the first Hasselblad in space in 1962, the same brand used on the first moon mission seven years later.


Photojournalism Links is a compilation of the most interesting photojournalism found on the web, curated by Mikko Takkunen, Associate Photo Editor at TIME. Follow him on Twitter @photojournalism.


TIME the backstory

Photojournalism Daily: Nov. 12, 2014

Photojournalism Daily is a compilation of the most interesting photojournalism found on the web, curated by Mikko Takkunen

Today’s daily Photojournalism Links collection highlights Associated Press photographer Rodrigo Abd’s work documenting the legacy of Peru’s “dirty war.” Thousands went missing during the conflict, which lasted from the early 1980s to 2000; since 2006, authorities have unearthed more than 2,900 sets of remains from the 15,000 estimated to have been “disappeared.” Abd’s photographs show the emotional second burial of men who were slain in the remote Andean village of Huallhua, in Ayacucho state, in 1990. Their remains were recently exhumed and returned for a proper burial, giving families a sense of closure nearly a quarter-century after their deaths.


Rodrigo Abd: Peru’s Dirty War Victims (The Associated Press Images)

Denis Sinyakov: Moscow nightclub caters to women (CNN Photo) These photographs from a Moscow club show how its owners do their utmost to please female clientele.

The Images that Moved them Most: Photographers on America’s Veterans (TIME LightBox) Powerful collection of pictures and words from photographers who have covered America’s most recent wars.

Processing the News: Retouching in Photojournalism (American Photo) Scott Alexander continues the important debate surrounding the industry’s ethics of retouching.

War photography: what happens after the conflict? (The Telegraph) New show at London’s Tate Modern – Conflict, Time, Photography – looks at wars and battles through the visual representation of their aftermath. Tate Modern’s curator Simon Baker explains the thinking behind the exhibition.

The first photograph of a human being (Mashable) The fascinating story behind the “earliest known photograph to include a recognizable human form.”


Photojournalism Links is a compilation of the most interesting photojournalism found on the web, curated by Mikko Takkunen, Associate Photo Editor at TIME. Follow him on Twitter @photojournalism.


TIME Television

Concert for Valor: Watch Performances by Rihanna, Eminem, Bruce Springsteen

Carrie Underwood, Dave Grohl and the Zac Brown Band all performed at the concert for veterans

HBO’s Concert for Valor drew hundreds of thousands of fans to the National Mall in Washington, D.C., with millions more tuning in on television screens and radios across the country to hear performances by Rihanna, Eminem, Bruce Springsteen, Carrie Underwood, Dave Grohl, Metallica and many more.

The Concert for Valor was staged to boost awareness of veterans’ support groups, raise funds for veterans charities and salute the troops who do so much for the country. Fans came out in force to support the cause and to see stars like Dave Grohl, the Zac Brown Band, John Oliver, Meryl Streep, Steven Spielberg, Will Smith and Tom Hanks, who all seemed to mirror the sentiments summed up by Jamie Foxx,”I came because it’s just the right thing to do.”

Jennifer Hudson performed “The Star Spangled Banner” to open the concert. After a video message from U.S. President Barack Obama, she was joined onstage by Jessie J for a powerful performance of David Guetta’s “Titanium.”

Dave Grohl greeted his hometown crowd, “We’ve got a lot of heroes here tonight, we’re going to sing for them.” He then launched into acoustic versions of some Foo Fighter favorites like “Everlong” and “My Hero,” which turned into a tear-jerking, flag-waving singalong anthem.

Zac Brown band deliver a rousing rendition of “America the Beautiful” and were soon joined on stage by Bruce Springsteen and Dave Grohl for a rollicking rendition of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Fortunate Son,” which some viewed as a controversial song choice due to its anti-war sentiment.

After the Black Keys whipped the crowd into a frenzy with their tracks “Fever” and “Howlin for You,” Carrie Underwood, pregnant and in heels, performed her song “See You Again.” (Read about the military family that changed how she sings the song here). Then backed by the Singing Sergeants of the US Air Force, she performed “Something in the Water” followed by a crowd-pleasing version of “Before He Cheats.”

Metallica was introduced by Jack Black and took the stage sounding loud and proud for a medley of “For Whom The Bell Tolls,” “Master of Puppets” and “Enter Sandman.” They ended their raucous set by dedicating the songs to the troops, “Finally, we get to play for our heroes!” and leading the crowd in a chant of “USA! USA!”

Bruce Springsteen returned to the stage for a stripped down, acoustic set including a haunting version of “Born in the USA,” and a bare bones “Dancing in the Dark” and dedicating his performance of “The Promised Land” to service members who just returned home.

Bryan Cranston did his best Heisenberg impression, encouraging everyone to hire veterans at their companies, before introducing Rihanna who looked like a sparkly Batgirl in a floor-length caped pantsuit to perform “Diamonds” and “Stay.” She was joined onstage by co-headliner Eminem for their hit “Monster.”


As Rihanna left the stage, Eminem made the most the concert being aired on HBO by encouraging everyone to “give it up for motherf–king Rihanna.” The crowd cheered, while the millions of people listening to the show on iHeartRadio undoubtedly enjoyed the beep. Eminem dedicated his track “Not Afraid” to the troops who came home and those who did not. He then launched into “Lose Yourself” and the crowd roared its approval.


Before the concert, officials predicted that the free concert would be the largest gathering on the National Mall in years, surpassing the Fourth of July and many presidential inaugurations. Proving the point, the Park Police tweeted out a photo of the impressive crowds gathered at the National Mall:

TIME On Our Radar

‘Hidden Wounds': Battling PTSD With Music

“We’re currently losing more veterans to suicide than to enemy action. If you ever confront another veteran and they tell you they never thought about killing themselves, they’re lying.” — Steven Diaz, veteran of the 2003 Iraq War


With millions of veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars returning home with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Dutch filmmakers and writers Arnold van Bruggen and Tomas Kaan were looking for a way to raise awareness of the issue among younger people. “People in their twenties and thirties are more likely to have friends, neighbors, cousins, nieces, schoolmates who came back from war or from a military mission,” says van Bruggen. “They are the people who should be more aware of PTSD and what many veterans are going through. They could be the first-response team, so to speak.”

So when they came across “Hidden Wounds,” a song by the Belgium rock band dEUS, “the idea of a documentary immediately popped up,” says van Bruggen. The song tells the true story of an English war veteran, Jimmy Johnson, who, after serving in the British Army in Northern Ireland in the 1970s, saw his marriage disintegrate. He started drinking “and during a panic attack, brought on by a sudden, intense noise, he murdered an innocent man,” says van Bruggen. “He spent years in prison and, shortly after his release, killed again.” Johnson, who pleaded guilty on both counts, has spent his time in prison spearheading a campaign to raise awareness around the issue of PTSD.

“When we started working to transform the story of the song into a documentary, we originally wanted to make a longer documentary on Jimmy Johnson and tear the song apart,” says van Bruggen. “But Johnson is still in a high security jail in Northern England, so there was no way we could film him properly.”

Instead, van Bruggen and Kaan decided to make Johnson’s story more universal. “We started looking for veterans in the Netherlands, Belgium, the U.K. and the United States.” Their goal was to bring together these veterans’ individual stories in a bid to show how commonplace and devastating PTSD had become.

Hidden Wounds is a seven-minute music video featuring 24 veterans with dEUS’s lead singer, Tom Barman. In the video, the veterans share snippets of their experiences dealing with PTSD, with Barman singing in the background. “When we reached out to these veterans, we sent them the song and informed them of our plans,” says van Bruggen. “Most of them truly liked the song with its strong lyrics. ‘I’m drinking to dull the pain / Images won’t go away / They count the dead / Now why don’t they just count me?’ These are heavy words.”

And since these words perfectly captured what these veterans were experiencing, van Bruggen and Kaan asked their subjects to sing along to the lyrics. “It felt really intimate and magic,” says the Dutch writer.

Using the musical concept as a template for this Web-based documentary was a conscious choice, the producers told TIME.

“There are many documentaries on PTSD,” says van Bruggen. “We wanted to reach out to younger people, many of whom don’t watch those longer pieces.” in addition, viewers can go deeper into each of the veterans’ stories through 24 short audio interviews that can be accessed directly from the original video through interactive links. “Plus, there’s a third layer with six hours of further interview material,” says van Bruggen. “We wanted to do justice to these stories and make them freely available.”

Hidden Wounds was released in 2013, to little notice beyond European borders. “I think that Web documentaries are still a niche, and it’s getting harder and harder to attract people to a specific website,” says van Bruggen “We had many visitors coming to our website, not the hundreds of thousands we aimed for. But the PTSD issue will only get bigger as time goes by and I hope our documentary will somehow offer some help to the people affected. If that’s the case, then our mission will succeed.”


Hidden Wounds is a web-documentary by Tomas Kaan and Arnold van Bruggen. Watch the interactive version of the documentary on www.hiddenwounds.be.

Olivier Laurent is the editor of TIME LightBox. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @olivierclaurent


TIME Media

America’s Changing Veterans

Aug. 29, 2011, cover of TIME
Cover Credit: PHOTOGRAPH BY DANIELLE LEVITT FOR TIME The Aug. 29, 2011, cover of TIME

From World War I to modern times, the way we talk about those who fight has rarely stayed the same

The United States has a long history of trying to look out for its veterans — in fact, that history is older than the country is. As TIME once noted, in discussing measures taken for World War II vets, the pilgrims at Plymouth wrote in 1636 that “If any man shalbee sent forth as a souldier and shall return maimed, hee shalbee maintained competently by the Collonie during his life.”

In the nearly four centuries that have passed since then, the relationship between America and those who have been sent forth as soldiers has changed — and so have the assumptions that society makes about who those people are. Say “veteran” now and the image the word conjures is very different from what it would have been in the 1930s, 1960s or 1980s. Over the years, TIME’s coverage of veterans’ issues has shed light on that evolution.

In honor of Veterans Day, here’s a look back at those ever-changing implications:

World War I

Many of the veterans of the Great War ended up enlisting in a second “army” shortly after returning home: the Bonus Army. The federal government had decided in the ’20s, when the victorious veterans were newly returned and the economy was rip-roaring, to grant those who had fought a bonus payment, payable about two decades later. Then the 1930s and the Great Depression happened. The men needed their bonuses right away, but the government wasn’t prepared to pay out. So, many of them organized into the “Bonus Expeditionary Force” and, in 1932, marched to Washington to demand payment. That August, the march turned into a riot, with a veteran named William Hushka shot by police and U.S. troops called in to assist in driving them out of town. “The unarmed B.E.F. did not give the troopers a real fight,” TIME reported. “They were too stunned and surprised that men wearing their old uniform should be turned against them.”

Read more: Battle of Washington, Aug. 8, 1932

World War II

The nation learned from the mistakes made after World War I and made sure the homecoming would go smoothly. The Veterans Administration had been fixed up, with Gen. Omar Bradley at the helm, and the G.I. Bill of Rights had been passed. To hear TIME tell it in 1946, veterans of the Second World War faced the opposite problem to the one that faced their predecessors: the veterans were so well taken care of that they felt lazy. “The country had promised to cushion the shock of their return and the country, for the most part, had made good. No soldier could deny that,” TIME wrote. “If anything, the cushion was too soft.”

Read more: Old Soldiers’ Soldier, Apr. 1, 1946

The Korean War

Coming close on the heels of WWII, the Korean War style of welcoming veterans home was mostly an extension of the process established in the 1940s. “By now, 15.3 million veterans of World War II, following by 4,500,000 from Korea, have gone back into civilian life with hardly a ripple,” TIME wrote in 1959. In fact, due to a combination of logistical preparedness for their return and a nation ready to embrace them, veterans tended to be further ahead than their civilian counterparts in terms of earnings and skills — and they were so well-adjusted that relatively few of them made use of the support structures that had been established.

Read more: What Ever Happened to the Veterans?, Jan. 5, 1959

The Vietnam War

It took nearly a decade after the end of the Vietnam War for TIME to wonder in a cover story what had happened to the parade for its veterans. “[After World War II] the mere uniform made a man a hero,” Lance Morrow wrote. “The troops who went to Korean got a muted version of the welcome. But then came America’s longest, strangest war. From that one, in Viet Nam, the boys came home alone, mostly one by one.” After newly returned Korean War vets had made their services seem extraneous, the V.A. had become seen as an institution concerned primarily with health care for aging vets of earlier wars; this traumatized younger cohort was left feeling like the nation just wanted to forget what had happened. The article introduced to TIME readers the phrase “posttraumatic stress”—it appeared in quotation marks—and underscored the importance of the psychological side of reentry to civilian life. It was as if the country had gone back to the post-WWI days, which was fitting, in some ways. “World War I was hard to beat as an example of dunderheaded, pointless slaughter,” Morrow wrote. “The men who fought it hated it just as much—and even in the same vocabularies—as the men who fought in Vietnam.”

Read more: The Forgotten Warriors, July 13, 1981

Iraq and Afghanistan

More recent writing about the veteran experience has held, in some ways, a mix of the past: respect is high but nobody thinks it’s easy. As TIME detailed in a 2011 cover story about veterans going into public service, it looks like that’s a good thing. “[Most] of the news we seem to hear about the veterans coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan is pretty bad,” wrote Joe Klein. “It is all about suicides, domestic violence and posttraumatic stress disorder. It is about veterans who are jobless and homeless. All of which is true, but there is another side of their story that has not been told: the veterans like John Gallina and Dale Beatty, who have come back and decided to continue to serve their country.”

Read more: The New Greatest Generation, Aug. 29, 2011

TIME the backstory

The Images That Moved Them Most: Photographers on America's Veterans

LightBox asked 26 photographers, who are veterans of war themselves, to describe which of their own photographs of veterans had a deep impact on their lives or moved them a significant way.

On Veterans Day, TIME explores the profound effects of war—both on those who serve, and the people who support them.

LightBox asked 26 documentary photographers who have covered conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan to describe which of their own photographs of veterans had a deep impact on their lives or moved them in a significant way.

Their testimonies are part of TIME’s veterans project. Find out more about it on the #TIMEvets page here.


Phil Bicker is a Senior Photo Editor at TIME


TIME Military

New VA Chief Proposes Fixes for a Troubled Agency

Michael Bonfigli / The Christian Science Monitor VA Secretary Bob McDonald previews the coming changes at the VA last Thursday.

Bob McDonald details four steps he’s taking to improve health care for vets

Former Procter & Gamble chief executive Bob McDonald showed over the past week that he has learned a lot about rolling out a new product. On Monday—the eve of Veterans Day—the new secretary at the Department of Veterans Affairs unveiled what he called the largest restructuring in VA history, aimed at cutting delays for veterans seeking medical care that forced out his predecessor in May.

In a slow rollout that featured a Road to Veterans Day Action Review, and interviews on 60 Minutes and with print reporters, McDonald showed the marketing savvy he acquired as a 33-year veteran of P&G. But actually turning around the huge agency and its 300,000 workers will prove harder than heralding the fact that it’s happening.

Scandal enveloped the VA earlier this year after whistleblowers reported that as many as 40 veterans died while awaiting care at the VA hospital in Phoenix. Although investigators said they couldn’t prove that the delays were what caused the deaths, the resulting probes revealed a widespread effort by some in the VA to manipulate record-keeping to make delays appear shorter than they actually were. McDonald has said he has proposed disciplinary action for about 40 employees stemming from the scheduling scandal, and that as many as 1,000 more could face punishment as probes into their actions wrap up.

The systemic nature of the problem led to Shinseki’s ouster. McDonald took over in July.

“As VA moves forward, we will judge the success of all our efforts against a single metric—the outcomes we provide for Veterans,” he said in a status report he released last week. “The mission is to care for Veterans, so we must become more focused on Veteran needs.” But, in a message to VA workers on Monday, he conceded the retooling is a “long-term process” and that “we don’t have the all the answers right now.”

McDonald said he is making four major changes designed to simplify a veteran’s visit to the VA and make the organization more responsive to vets’ needs:

  • Create a “Chief Customer Service Officer” to “drive VA culture and practices to understand and respond to the expectations of our Veteran customers,” McDonald told VA employees. They’ll be encouraged to submit ideas on how to improve the agency beginning Tuesday, Veterans Day.
  • Build a “single regional framework” within the VA to allow vets “to more easily navigate VA without having to understand our inner structure.”
  • Work more closely with local, state and community partners “to coordinate better service delivery.”
  • Wring inefficiencies from the VA by sharing support services among different parts of the agency.

McDonald has won plaudits from insiders for his business acumen, his willingness to give out his cell phone number to pretty much anyone, and for encouraging VA employees to call him “Bob.”

But even if 99% of the VA’s employees act properly, that could still leave 3,000 potential troublemakers. The challenge he faces is the same that brought down the prior VA secretary, retired Army general Eric Shinseki. Like McDonald, Shinseki was a veteran. But Shinseki also had been wounded in Vietnam, treated in VA facilities, and had run a major governmental organization—the U.S. Army—before taking the reins at the VA when President Obama took office.

If the VA bureaucracy stumped someone like Shinseki, how confident is McDonald that it won’t do the same to him? “When you’ve run an $85 billion company in 200 countries around the world and you speak multiple languages and you’ve operated in those countries and you’ve traveled to 41 different sites,” McDonald said, “it’s pretty hard to hide stuff.”

TIME Health Care

Veterans Affairs Chief Announces Big Restructuring Over Wait Times

Announcement comes on the eve of Veterans Day

The Department of Veterans Affairs will undergo a large organizational restructuring following the explosive revelations that hundreds of veterans were subjected to long wait times before receiving health care, Secretary Robert McDonald announced on Monday.

Disciplinary action had been taken against 5,600 employees within the last year and more firings were to come, McDonald told CNN, adding “we are acting aggressively, expeditiously, and consistent with the law.” The day before McDonald’s announcement, he acknowledged plans to hire around 28,000 medical professionals—including 2,500 devoted to mental health care—to join the VA’s hospitals and reduce the lack of timely appointments. He also said he intends to recruit young doctors with incentives like student loan forgiveness.

Since the scandal came to light, there have been more than 100 investigations of VA facilities take on by organizations from the FBI to the Department of Justice.

[CNN]

TIME Interview

#LightBoxFF: Using Instagram to Help Homeless Veterans

Welcome to this week’s edition of TIME LightBox Follow Friday, a series where we feature the work of photographers using Instagram in new, interesting and engaging ways. Regularly, we introduce you to the person behind the feed through his or her pictures and an interview with the photographer.

This week, LightBox speaks to Pablo Unzueta (@unzueta_), a freelance photographer based in Los Angeles who has been using Instagram to draw attention to the persisting problem of veteran homelessness. TIME LightBox selected Unzueta’s work as part of #TIMEvets, an initiative launched ahead of this year’s Veterans Day to explore the profound effects of war on soldiers and their families. Visit the #TIMEvets page for more information and for details on how to contribute your own images and stories.


LightBox: Tell us about yourself and how you became interested in photography.

Pablo Unzueta: I come from a family of photographers. The person who has influenced me the most was my grandmother who did documentary photography covering the landfills in Central America. She also was a wedding photography in Los Angeles. More often than not, I would find myself in the darkroom watching her develop rolls of film. At the time, I was not aware that I would become an aspiring photojournalist. I was only five or seven years old. Early on at 17, I began to document street life in Los Angeles. There, I began to develop my aesthetics; but also, I became aware that it wasn’t always a happy life for everyone. I felt that no one cared about poverty, war, corruption, etc. I found photography [could be] a source to generate some advocacy.

LightBox: What does Instagram provide you and this project specifically that other platforms don’t?

Pablo Unzueta: Instagram allows me to share with my followers these stories on a personal level. There are no guidelines, no AP style as to how you want to tell the story. It’s just me putting the context with the picture and allowing my followers to decide how they want to react. A lot of people have an account, so it makes it a great source to share stories and opinions, without getting [rejected] by news outlets.

LightBox: What is the purpose of your project?

Pablo Unzueta: The purpose for this project is to make people think critically and question why there are so many war veterans living on the street. More things should be done to prevent poverty rates from growing each year. The stories of these war veterans reflect the loss of hope. Overtime these people accept their lives the way they are. Many believe that shelter programs are “unreliable” and “unsafe”. Eventually, the street life molds into a long-lasting lifestyle. This issue is fairly complex to understand, personally speaking.

Gregory Thomas. November 30, 2013 Alameda St. Los Angeles, Calif.

LightBox: Tell us about your process creating the work. How do you approach these homeless veterans?

Pablo Unzueta: I carry two black trash bags with clothes in the back of my trunk and I drive around looking for homeless residents. If I don’t have clothes to give, I carry food and coins. This gives me a reason to approach them with a camera in hand. I [often] spark conversation with a simple handshake. If they open up to me, I’m usually allowed to take their portrait. Sometimes it takes a few visits for a picture, but that’s what makes the process all worth it. Most of my conversations are recorded on my iPhone, sometimes on a black notebook.

LightBox: Many photographers who started with analog or digital photography find themselves adapting to smartphones and Instagram. You started photographing at 17, and you are now 20. Can you call yourself an Instagram native? Do you find it liberating to be able to produce and distribute work instantaneously?

Pablo Unzueta: I think I can call myself that. I always loved Instagram. When I first started using it, I uploaded photographs from my DSLR. Every once in a while, I do a series with just iPhone photographs. I think it’s easy for someone to call themselves a photographer because of smartphones. But there is much more to it than just taking a picture with a phone. Going beyond your comfort zone and photographing something meaningful that contributes to a good cause automatically separates you from the category of “photographer”. It is important that we have a variety of documentarians in this world who present us with information, so why not use smartphones to illustrate the world with something informative and influential. Instagram is a perfect example of that. I am starting to see more and more Instagramers publish photographs with stories, which inspires others to do the same as well. It’s like a domino effect. Storytelling is imperative.


Pablo Unzueta is a freelance photojournalist in Los Angeles. He has been documenting protests, poverty and homelessness.

Ye Ming is a contributor to TIME LightBox. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.


TIME Business

Job Fairs Are Not Enough

soldier saluting flag
Getty Images

Mike Stajura is a doctoral candidate at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health. He served in the U.S. Army from 1995-2002.

Our military drawdown overseas means more veterans will be hunting for employment at home. How can we find them meaningful work?

As the military drawdown in Afghanistan continues, the United States will add an additional 80,000 veterans from the Army alone to the civilian workforce. This is on top of the normal annual rate of separations from military service. On this Veterans Day, let’s think about all of America’s soldiers who are receiving pink slips.

Members of the military receive rigorous training from a very selective institution, and they served their country under difficult circumstances that required adaptability, perseverance, teamwork, and maturity. What more could an employer want?

It would seem a lot more. Despite the many veteran employment initiatives out there—put forward by the White House, mayors’ offices, corporations, and nonprofit organizations—it’s still difficult for veterans to find work, let alone jobs that use them well. The Syracuse University Institute for Veterans and Military Families offers one explanation that applies to me and other veterans I’ve talked to: many veterans take work that is a poor fit for their knowledge, skills, ability, and experience. This leads to dissatisfaction, lower performance, and job-hopping.

If you were a helicopter mechanic in the military, then it makes sense to seek work fixing helicopters as a civilian. It’s harder for veterans whose primary military job skills don’t directly translate to the civilian workforce. As an infantry officer for the Army (who left before the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan started), my work included managing a fleet of armored vehicles, supervising the distribution of water in Honduras, and assisting a State Department official in Bosnia-Herzegovina. When I completed the coursework for my doctorate degree in public health, I started applying for emergency management and disaster services positions.

I wasn’t even getting called for job interviews, though. Rather, I’d get letters saying that I met the education and skill requirements, but didn’t have the “right” experience for a job. They were looking for specific junior job titles on my resume that I would never have unless I was to start at the lowest rung of the career ladder at 41 years old.

I was rejected from about a dozen jobs in three months. Even after working with mentors and consulting with guides to help veterans find civilian work, it was hard to figure out how to present my skills and experience. The “skills translator” at www.military.com said that in civilian-speak I was trained in “message processing procedures.” Seriously?

I got my next two jobs precisely because I am a veteran. The first employer emailed a job announcement to a group of Los Angeles veterans because he had a contract with the Army and needed someone who could “speak Army.” I became highly prized for my ability to produce PowerPoint slides and “decision-support matrices” according to Army norms.

My second job involves an organization that serves veterans and their families. During the first three months, I worked on occasional tasks but I could not even explain to other employees what my job was because I didn’t have an official description or direct supervisor.

This was very different from the Army, where everyone has a clear task and there’s constant interaction and feedback. Things finally changed for the better after I explained that I needed a project and accountability.

Michael Poyma, an employment specialist for the Department of Veterans Affairs in Michigan, has heard many stories similar to mine. And he thinks some of the most common approaches to matching veteran job seekers and employers need to be rethought. For example, both job seekers and employers have told Poyma that many job fairs are a waste of time. While some people find jobs this way, it’s a drop in the bucket. They also create high-pressure, high-expectation situations that can magnify disappointment.

Poyma and others have also noted that veterans gravitate in disproportionate numbers towards certain fields: government service, law enforcement, government contracting, work with veterans. These jobs allow veterans to continue working in a familiar environment related to public service.

But isolation can just entrench the misunderstanding. This is why Chris Marvin of Got Your 6, and previously, The Mission Continues, has embarked on projects to help veterans integrate fully into the civilian world that they have rejoined. The Mission Continues, for instance, puts veterans to work painting houses, tending community gardens, or mentoring kids at a wide range of community and nonprofit organizations.

Poyma and other VA representatives are about to start pilot seminars will seat potential employers and veterans on opposite sides of the room, separated by a “demilitarized zone.” He will conduct exercises to dismantle the demilitarized zone by discussing systemic barriers to employment (some of which I’ve already talked about, but others such as the cost of retraining for civilian licenses), the stigmas that follow veterans, and each side’s particular acronyms and jargon. In the end, he hopes to demonstrate that there is hidden value in a veteran’s resume if employers will only take the time to look.

Mike Stajura wrote this for Thinking L.A., a partnership of UCLA and Zocalo Public Square.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

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