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(CNN) — After Brooks Douan finished serving in Iraq for the Marine Reserves, he returned home in October 2008 to battle something many civilians had already been fighting: unemployment.

To survive, the 24-year-old took temporary jobs in his home state of South Carolina. He donned a pumpkin costume during Halloween for extra cash. He took a temporary gig as a photographer, but he was let go shortly. The economy was to blame, the studio owners told him.