Former Marine Sgt. Dakota Meyer, a recipient of the Medal of Honor, assured employers at Friday's Hiring Our Heroes job fair that veterans make for the best staff members at their organization.
The 24-year-old, who received the country's highest military decoration for braving enemy fire in eastern Afghanistan to save U.S. and Afghan comrades in 2009, played the role of the rock star at the job fair for veterans and military spouses. After his opening comments in the Crown Center, people lined up to chat with him, get their pictures taken or just shake his hand.
"It's important that I still care for veterans and still carry on the brotherhood in the military and help these veterans get jobs," Meyer said afterward.
This was the second military job fair the U.S. Chamber of Commerce had held in Fayetteville this year. The first, in February, helped about 60 people land jobs.
More than 150 job-seekers walked in over the first hour, and another 488 had pre-registered, said Ross Cohen of the U.S. Chamber.
Friday's hiring event brought together 67 employers representing companies and organizations such as the N.C. Military Business Center, Toyota, Walmart, Systel Business Equipment, Cyclemax Defense and Edward Jones Investments.
"We have hired people from here before," said Huntre Coleman, a human resources manager for the Fayetteville defense contractor K3 Enterprises. "Some of our best employees came from here."
The fair, held in partnership with the Fayetteville Regional Chamber, is part of the Hiring 500,000 Heroes initiative. The purpose of the national campaign is to engage the business community in committing to hire 500,000 veterans and military spouses by the end of 2014.
Since the campaign started a year ago, Cohen said, about 370 hiring events have been held across the nation.
"Fayetteville is a strong military community," he said. "The (Fayetteville) chamber has been very supportive to make this happen. So we'll definitely be back next year a couple of times."
Former Air Force Capt. Kamille Howard got out of the service three months ago and has relocated to Fayetteville from Ramstein Air Base in Germany. Her husband, Ted, serves in the Army at Fort Bragg.
Howard, 27, primarily worked as a behavioral scientist during her military tenure, but she was making the rounds at the fair in the hopes of finding a job as a project manager or in research.
"It's difficult for me to get something I'm interested in," she said. "I worked in so many different jobs in the military. I have a hard time finding what I'm into."
William Hairston, 58, has been unemployed for eight months. The Fayetteville resident and former airman previously worked in traffic management for the 43rd Logistics Readiness Squadron at what is now Pope Army Airfield.
On Friday, Hairston was looking for work in the supply or warehousing fields.
"Right now, I just need a job," he said. "My odds are about as good as anyone else's."
North Carolina's unemployment rate decreased slightly in October to 9.3 percent, the state said Friday.
See more about veteran employment at Military.com's Veteran Employment Center.