By Chris Wright, The News On 6

MUSKOGEE, OK -- The economy in crisis is hitting veterans especially hard.

The Military Order of the Purple Heart says the unemployment rate among young veterans is now 18 percent. In an effort to lower that number, the group hosted a special job fair Tuesday. 

Jeff Akin has visited his fair share of job fairs over the past year and a half. That's how long he has been unemployed.

"It sucks big time, to be honest with you," said Jeff Akin, US Army (Ret).

But Tuesday's gathering at the Muskogee Civic Center was different. It was organized by veterans, and was for veterans like Akin, who served with the Army in Desert Storm. 

The job fair featured booths manned by private companies, government agencies and local schools. 

At this point, Akin says he would be willing to work for any of them.

"I've sent out ap's everywhere I can think, online, in person. I cannot find work," said Jeff Akin.

Organizers say veterans, especially young ones returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, are faring particularly poorly during this recession. 

The Military Order of the Purple Heart is hosting the jobs fairs across the country, and says the gatherings offer support and encouragement. 

"They've already experienced so much. It makes me feel great just to give them that opportunity to help them, and maybe change their lives," said John Bennett, Department of Veterans Affairs.

"You hear all kinds of stories about persons that lost their job, lost their home, might even have lost their family. It's certainly discouraging," said Don Nichols, Military Order of the Purple Heart.

Jeff Akin admits he is discouraged, but after meeting veterans who are enduring similar hardships, says he remains determined.

"It's just a matter of getting out there and trying to find a job and not giving up," said Jeff Akin.

Organizers say turnout Tuesday was heavier than expected. They estimate 500 veterans showed up for the job fair.