Georgia National Guard soldiers to be featured in documentary

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Georgia National Guard soldiers in the Augusta-based 877th Engineering Company will be featured Sunday in a new documentary on CNN about veterans finding work.

The documentary, which airs at 8 and 11 p.m., is the first part in a series about election-year issues, called Voters in America.

Producer Nelli Black said unemployment was a topic that frequently came up in conversations during the research portion of the project, particularly among service members returning home. The most recent numbers for April show that unemployment among veterans is down to 7.1 percent, compared to 8.1 percent overall.

For the National Guardsmen coming home from Afghanistan last December, though, there was a definite sense of anxiety about what lay ahead. Black said that’s one of the surprises she encountered during reporting.

“Coming back to the U.S., I thought they would be elated. But they were really afraid, and I never expected that,” she said.

Spc. Damon Boyd, 25, one of the profiled soldiers, left a job as a welder when he deployed to Afghanistan in 2010. He was reluctant at first to participate in the project, but agreed when he thought about the good it could do.

“I struggled for a while looking for a job, and I don’t want to see anyone else in that situation,” Boyd said.

Besides portraying the job search of the soldiers, the documentary features narration by retired soldier and motivational speaker J.R. Martinez. Paul Rieckhoff, the founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, also lends his insights on the transition to civilian life.

Black said it’s her hope that the documentary will be educational for Americans who believe that a homecoming from deployment is the end of a soldier’s danger.

“That’s when the real battle begins,” she said.

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