After spending more than five years in the Marine Corps, including a seven-month tour in the Persian Gulf before and during the war, John Price spent Wednesday morning diligently looking for work.
Stationed at El Toro Marine Corps Air Station, Price, 28, will be ending his military career in six months and said he is a bit anxious about his future.
Price was one of more than 1,000 veterans from as far back as World War II who came to Wednesday's job fair for current and former military personnel at the Garden Grove Community Center.
Organizers said there was a sharp decline in the number of companies participating this year. In 1990, 60 of the 350 companies contacted agreed to participate. But this year, just 27 of the 2,100 companies contacted took part, said Jerry Pell of the Orange County Veteran's Service Office.
"We increased our mailing because the economy is down," Pell said. "But businesses are either closing, laying off, aren't hiring or moving out of Orange County. There are all sorts of problems."
The 10th annual event was organized by the Veteran's Employment Committee of Orange County. Among those who did take part were the Internal Revenue Service, the Southern California Rapid Transit District and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.
"Of the people who have gotten out (of the military), I don't know too many who have gotten jobs right away," said Price, the Marine. "I think that's why as people get older, they tend to stay with the military because it's secure. As for myself, I'd like to take my chances in the civilian world."
Tony Banks, 43, an Army veteran who served in Vietnam, has spent the last year working odd jobs. The former real estate appraiser came to the fair looking for work as a warehouse supervisor. He said he hoped to have better luck Wednesday than on previous job searches.
"What's going on out there is disgusting," Banks said. "Even though I've had 16 years of experience in distribution and warehouse, what companies are asking you to do and what they're willing to pay is really depressing."
Scott L'Ecuyer, 24, served in the Air Force for four years before he was discharged this year. The Costa Mesa resident came to the job fair hoping to parlay his military "right stuff" into the right job.
"I'm looking for any kind of job that I can run with the ball," he said. "I'm looking for a company where there's career opportunities. I'm pretty gung-ho. It's just a matter of getting my foot in the door."
Fountain Valley resident Robert Hansen, 44, an Army veteran who served in 1966-69, including a tour in Vietnam, has been out of work for more than a month. He left the fair feeling optimistic that he would soon find a sales job.
"I've got a lot of good leads," he said. "It's a little scary because the economy is going steadily downhill. I keep waiting for it to pick up, but it hasn't."
World War II Army veteran Roy Shumway, who was stationed in the South Pacific in 1941-45, was looking for accounting jobs. Last week, he was laid off from the accounting job he had held for almost two years.
"I'm a little disappointed," Shumway said of the few prospects he found at the fair. "Maybe I was expecting too much. This is the first time I've ever had to look for a job."
Shumway worked as an accountant for more than 30 years before retiring in 1981. After relaxing for five years, he decided that it was time to rejoin the work force. He declined to give his age for fear that it would hurt his chances of gaining employment.
"I want to keep active," Shumway said. "Soap operas don't help your mind too much."