“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 Mark Major, a veteran of combat in Iraq 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 opportunities are especially welcome now because the unemployment rate for recent veterans remains higher than for the rest of the nation.
Major helps manage intermodal freight trains for the railroad in Oakland, Calif. He sought out a railroad job when he was getting ready to leave the military because of the challenges and independence it offered and because he had known other soldiers who went to work for a railroad and liked it.
“I'm infantry,” Major said. “The 40-hour workweek, sitting in a cubicle doesn't really appeal.”