Robert Jewusiak left the Navy in 1980 and then spent 27 years working for as a union cement finisher in New Jersey.
On Thursday, Jewusiak was looking for work at the "Paychecks for Patriots" hiring fair for veterans held at Chattanooga State Community College's Health Sciences Center.
"This is the first time I've looked for work in 35 years," said Jewusiak, who's semi-retired. "I had enough time in my union job up north to retire. But if I start eating into that now, it'll kill me."
He was among about 80 job-seeking veterans who came to see what some 20 area employers had to offer.
"So far, we've had two definite hires," said Donna Mason, a career specialist for the Tennessee Department of Labor, which put on the third annual statewide event in partnership with Dollar General and 25 other employers in Tennessee.
One thing that stood out about the veterans, Mason said, is that they were better dressed than other job fair applicants she's seen.
"We had a lot of really nice-dressed people with resumes ready to go on and take on their next adventures," she said.
Some of the job openings required special skills, while others were for general labor.
Only a high school diploma or GED certificate was needed to get an operations technician I job from the Tennessee Department of Transportation. TDOT was interviewing applicants on-site for the entry-level position, which starts at $1,600 a month and could include such tasks as filling potholes, plowing snow and checking the quality of contractors' road work.
"At least one gentleman came back and told us he was offered a job," said TDOT Transportation Project Specialist Megan Wildes, who worked a table downstairs from where the interviews were held.
The Chattanooga Coca-Cola Bottling Co. got some interest for positions it was hiring for: maintenance mechanics who'll make between $20-$21 an hour and route drivers who'll earn between $16-$18 an hour, said the company's employment manager Karen Bianco.
"We've gotten a little bit of interest," she said.
Employers at the event included Dollar General, RE West Transportation, TDOT, Five Star Food Service, Titan Transfer, AVERITT Express, FedEx Ground, Corrections Corporation of America, Regions Bank, Hamilton County Emergency Communications District, McKee Foods Corp., Tennessee Department of Correction, Blood Assurance, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, Chattem, Omnium Plastic, Lectrus, Chattanooga Truck Center, Chattanooga State Community College and Gestamp Chattanooga.
The Paychecks for Patriots hiring fair was held Thursday in nine Tennessee cities: Chattanooga, Clarksville, Cookeville, Jackson, Johnson City, Knoxville, Memphis, Nashville and Tullahoma.
Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.facebook.com/MeetsForBusiness or twitter.com/meetfor business or 423-757-6651.