The Obama administration made construction careers for veterans a high-profile initiative, announced last year by First Lady Michele Obama, that asks industry firms to hire 100,000 vets in the next five years. But many firms have had long-term commitments to hiring and supporting veterans during deployments and with combat-related impacts, they say.

Since its founding in 2003, Helmets to Hardhats, a union-sponsored recruiting program, says it has placed 20,000 veterans in the industry. "Whether firms are looking to post apprenticeship opportunities or looking for their next project safety manager, we have an extensive database of resumes and profiles that grows every day," says Executive Director Darrell Roberts.

Veterans "understand what it means to be on a good team. They quickly take ownership and bounce back fast from adversity," says Tom Gerlach, Turner Corp. human-resources senior vice president, who says base pay for deployed employees is maintained.

"We take care of them so they'll come back to us," he adds. Joining Gilbane Building Co. last year as a recruiter, Barbara Eubanks, a retired Navy officer, says the firm has designated "internal champions" to bolster veteran hiring, since job fairs were not producing the right candidates. With a goal of having veterans comprise 7% of new hires, Gilbane targets its outreach at bases with construction activity and helps candidates translate military experience to the civilian sector.

Destiny Demo, Cianbro Corp. human-resources director, says the firm has "dealt with" vets' post-traumatic stress on the job, such as at noisy industrial sites, but the firm hasn't seen it "in a big way." As with other firms, Cianbro's employee-assistance program is a "completely anonymous" resource.