Railroads Provide Work for Vets Returning from War

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By Josh Funk - Associated Press
OMAHA, Neb. May 10, 2013 (AP)

Mark Major once led a team of soldiers in combat in Iraq. Now he leads a team of railroad employees. The difference, he says, is obvious: I'm not getting shot at anymore.

But it's the similarities between serving in the military and working for the railroad that draw Major and many other former military members to this type of work.

For a veteran — a person who thrives off excitement, a mission and a chain of command — you tend to seek out companies like that, said Major, who has worked for Union Pacific for about two years.

As thousands of American soldiers return to the civilian workforce after service in Iraq or Afghanistan, many are finding jobs on the nation's rail lines. More than 25 percent of all U.S. railroad workers have served in the military.

Veterans have a long history of railroad work. Civil War veterans, for example, helped complete the transcontinental railroad in the 1860s. But railroad