Bill looks to promote veteran-owned businesses, create database for veteran job seekers

Bill would create database for veteran job seekers, promote veteran-owned businesses

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Memorial Day weekend is of course about remembering our fallen military members, but you can also help support the veterans still among us. Supporting veterans is about to get a lot easier.

“Thanks to food, here I am, 14 years later,” said Justin Ferguson, owner of BRQ Seafood and Barbeque.

It’s a time consuming, tedious process to prepare food to the feed the masses.

“You get up early and you go all day and late into the night,” Ferguson said.

There's a lot of mixing, quick slicing, and plates flying off the shelves. This is where it all started for Ferguson, working behind the scenes in a restaurant. It’s a certain philosophy that keeps him going.

“Your last day, you salute and you’re out. You walk off that base and it’s like, ‘Okay, back to the real world,’” he said.

Ferguson is a military veteran, enlisting in the Army right after 9/11. He says he felt like it was his duty to serve the country.

“Two tours in Iraq, stationed out in Germany. I spent most of my time in the Middle East," he said.

The restaurant plan is simple: serve good food. However, Ferguson says it’s the structure of the business that’s a good fit for veterans. Now, he wants to do more than serve up a daily special.

“It really helped me transition from the military because kitchen work is gregarious. It’s very similar to the military,” he said. “I kind of went through the whole gauntlet of getting used to civilian life again. Getting into the restaurant business was not planned.”

Ferguson wants to hire more members of the military. Right now, several employees in the catering department and several cooks are members of the armed forces.

House Bill 391 by Representative Franklin J. Foil is making its way through the legislature in the hopes of putting veteran-owned business in a database. That would help customers looking to support veterans directly find those businesses more easily. Even better, it could create a pipeline for veterans looking for jobs.

“The restaurants really saved me,” Ferguson said. “At one point, I was going to go back because I had a hard time dealing with being a civilian.”

He says even if a veteran isn’t looking for a job, just knowing there’s another resource out there is helpful.

“That could be just somebody walking into my restaurant or another business and saying, ‘Hey, can I talk to you?' Absolutely.”

For him, business is personal and he’s using his restaurant to make life after the military as simple as possible.

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