Steven Culp turned 18 only nine days after 9/11. “I felt the call to serve immediately after that event,” said Culp.
He served six years in the Navy as an electronic warfare technician and a cryptologic technician.
After his enlistment, Culp enrolled in college and earned a degree in engineering. But his wartime service had changed him, and after seeking help from the VA, he was enrolled in their Veteran Readiness and Employment program.
“At the job fair, there was just about every profession you could think of: engineering; software; technicians for electronics, mechanics or engines; law enforcement. There are opportunities for just about everything there,” said Culp. “With the skills that are built in the military, there is something for every veteran.”
Though he had interviewed with several companies, there was one in particular with whom Culp wanted to connect.
“I was first introduced to Fluke when I was on active duty in the Navy. I used their multimeters for all kinds of tests around the shop, making sure our gear was in spec and working correctly,” he said. “When I saw their logo at the job fair, I went over and spoke with them. Turns out the two gentlemen there recruiting were former Navy. They took a look at my resume and my experience and they said, ‘Can you start on Monday?’”
Culp accepted a position as a service engineer with Fluke Corp., a maker of industrial testing and diagnostic equipment.
“Steven’s story is an excellent example of securing meaningful employment through participation in a DAV job fair,” said DAV National Employment Director Rob Lougee. “Separating service members, veterans and their spouses should take the time to check out our employment resources at jobs.dav.org.”
“They can find everything from our full schedule of in-person and virtual job fairs to resources for entrepreneurs.”
DAV job fairs and employment resources provide veterans and their spouses with the prospect of an exciting career path.
“This opportunity means the world to me,” he said. “It’s truly a second chance. I’m eternally grateful to the VA and DAV for the opportunity I’ve been given.”
Deciding to leave the military might be as big a step as deciding to join. Most of us come in when we’re young, naive, and unprepared. When we get out we’re just as unprepared. Most of us. It doesn’t have to be that way, though.
You had what it took to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. You certainly have what it takes to support you and your dependents. You just have to be smart about it – and ask the right questions. Will you be getting a civilian job, and if so, will it be the same thing that you did in the military? Is remote work for you? Or will you go to school? Where will you do these things? How will you prepare to pay for them while you wait for benefits? Do you know how to get into the VA system?
No matter what your answers are, there are things you need to do in the two years leading up to your departure from the military that will ensure a smooth and successful experience.
Two Years to 18 Months from Expiration – Term of Service (ETS):
Find a mentor who has faced the same problems you will likely face.
Choose your civilian career and make sure you’ll leave the military with an education or a certified skill that will help you in that career.
Learn about your G.I. Bill and decide what you plan to do with it.
Start to save money and be prepared for the possibility of a tight job market when you get out.
Start to build a network by meeting people in your desired career field or college.
One Year Out:
Review your pre-separation budget and make sure you’re on track.
If you’re going to school after leaving, choose where, what to study, and start applying.
Learn about both VA home loans and the process of buying a house. If you’re moving to a new area, you might be able to get house hunting orders.
Begin the process of getting out of the military, which includes informing your unit and command while starting relevant paperwork and taking transition assistance classes. You may even be assigned a counselor.
Six Months to Go:
Make sure your budget projections still make sense.
Write a resume, preferably with the assistance of a career counselor, and use it in your job search. Be sure to show this to your transition mentor and your civilian career mentor, too.
Request your last household good shipment. The military will pack up and send your belongings to your new location or home of record one last time.
Consider your post-military health care options. Unless your conditions are service-connected, your coverage will end. If you have a new employer who offers health care, enroll in that. You can also find health care coverage through the Affordable Care Act website. Tricare offers temporary health care coverage for newly-separated members under the Continued Health Care Benefit Program (CHCBP) and Transitional Assistance Management Program (TAMP).
Update your wardrobe, leaning on your career mentor and the professional network you’ve been developing.
Decide where you’ll roll your military blended retirement savings. For plans worth less than $100,000, consider a fiduciary app like Wealthfront.
Update your important documents while it’s still free.
Start your household goods shipments and other PCS/ETS procedures.
Three Months Left:
Begin working on your VA compensation claim paperwork. Declare everything on your outgoing medical exam. Your duty station and Veterans Service Organizations (like the DAV) will assist with this process. Some states have offices to help veterans get this done.
Review your budget one last time to ensure it’s still good to go.
No matter your age, review your life insurance options, especially Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI) vs. Veterans’ Group Life Insurance (VGLI).
Get copies of your medical and dental records to keep.
Visit your doctor for free one last time.
One Month Out:
Choose your health insurance.
Know your home state’s veterans benefits.
Stay on top of your VA disability claim.
Keep looking for work, using job fairs, LinkedIn, and other websites.
Meet with your school’s veterans benefits office.
This can all be overwhelming if you wait until the last minute to do everything. Remember that staying proactive and ensuring you arrive at each point when you’re supposed to will keep you from losing your mind as your ETS date approaches.
Then you’ll really be able to celebrate a job well done.
Read the full transition guide on Army Times here.
For retired Army Colonel Jim Bedingfield, it’s been nearly three decades of relearning how to put one foot in front of the other. Here’s his story of recovery and hope that he hopes will inspire others.
His rehab journey began back in 1994 after a spinal cord injury in the Army left him paralyzed.
“I had to learn how to walk again, had to learn how to use my arms and hands,” he shared.
I am aware of the challenges associated with transitioning back to civilian life after serving in the military. The daily reality of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) for some veterans can have a profound effect on their lives and relationships, as well as their capacity to find and keep a job.
The unseen scars that trauma (such as sexual assault or combat) leaves behind can be challenging to explain to others, and many employers may not be aware of the signs or know how to make accommodations for PTSD sufferers. “Approximately 6 out of every 100 people (or 6% of the U.S. population) will have PTSD at some point in their lives,” according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. More than 500,000 veterans are thought to experience PTSD.
Regrettably, many organizational leaders are unaware of the difficulties that PTSD-affected veterans encounter. Veterans may have trouble finding and keeping jobs as a result of this ignorance, which may exacerbate their symptoms and make it much harder for them to acclimate to civilian life.
In light of this, it’s critical for employers to become knowledgeable about PTSD and to take active steps to support veterans at work. Yet, we also need to be watchful of the language we employ while discussing the subject. Although, while PTSD is a genuine and serious condition, the word “disorder” maintains a negative connotation and can stigmatize those who experience it.
In particular, the diagnostic needs to be revised to remove the word “disorder.”
This is why:
The Label “Disorder” Is Stigmatizing
The term “disorder” indicates that the person with PTSD has some sort of underlying defect. People may feel ashamed as a result and be reluctant to get the assistance they require. Additionally, it supports the false notion that mental health issues are character flaws or shortcomings rather than treatable medical conditions. This may result in stigmatization and discrimination, both of which may hurt a veteran’s prospects for obtaining and retaining employment.
By excluding the word “disorder,” we may contribute to eradicating this stigma and facilitating open communication between veterans, co-workers and employers about their needs and experiences. This in turn can assist firms in providing better veteran employee support and fostering a more diverse workplace.
It’s a Natural Reaction to Trauma – It Is Not a Disease or Disorder
The term “disorder” should not be used to describe PTSD because it is inaccurate. In the conventional sense of the phrase, PTSD is not a disorder. Rather, it is a typical reaction to an unusual and stressful occurrence.
A person’s brain and body go through a number of physiological changes after experiencing trauma. These modifications are intended to assist the individual in surviving the trauma and defending themselves against further harm. In other circumstances, though, these modifications might continue for a long time after the trauma has passed, resulting in symptoms like hyperarousal, flashbacks and avoidance.
This reaction to trauma is normal and adaptive; it is not a pathology. By eliminating the word “disorder,” we can influence the dialogue around PTSD and frame it as a normal reaction to trauma that calls for assistance and understanding rather than stigma.
It Could Promote Help-Seeking Behavior
And last, removing the word “disorder” from PTSD may help veterans seek out assistance. When a condition is identified, a person may believe that there is an underlying issue with them that cannot be resolved. They may have feelings of helplessness and hopelessness as a result, which may deter them from reaching out for assistance.
We can lessen these feelings of hopelessness and inspire veterans to go for the assistance and resources they require to manage their symptoms and prosper in their personal and professional life by portraying PTSD as a typical reaction to trauma.
Employers have a significant voice in this discussion. They can make it easier for veterans and other workers who have Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS) to disclose their illness and get the assistance they require by fostering an environment of understanding and support.
This can involve offering PTS information and tools, such as instructing managers on how to identify symptoms and provide accommodation, as well as providing employees and team members with private places to turn for assistance. It might also entail fostering an environment at work where mental health is valued, perhaps by providing flexible work schedules or mental health days.
Employers must also appreciate the distinctive skills that warriors with PTS can bring to the workplace. Many veterans may contribute significantly to their organizations because they have acquired abilities like adaptability, resilience and leadership from their military experience. Employers can aid veterans with PTS in feeling strong and valued at work by identifying and respecting their strengths.
Ultimately, the focus of the discussion around veteran PTS awareness should be on dispelling myths and fostering compassion. We can improve the way we communicate about mental health disorders and encourage people to get the care they require by eliminating the word “disorder” from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and concentrating on the normalcy of the symptoms.
Larry Broughton is a former U.S. Army Green Beret, best-selling author, award-winning entrepreneur, keynote speaker and leadership mentor. TheLarryBroughton.com
Ever stumbled in a job interview and wished you had prepared more? It can be difficult to think back on your work history in the middle of an interview. But sharing an on-point story or example from your past experience communicates confidence and competence and can leave a remarkable impression on an interviewer. Prepare for your next interview by practicing responses to these behavioral questions—the type employers ask most frequently—and learn strategies for your answers.
What are behavioral questions?
Behavioral questions require you to describe how you have handled challenging work-related situations, such as conflict with co-workers, dealing with work deadlines or completing complex projects. The employer is seeking insight into your behavior, personality and character to determine how you’d likely perform in their job and whether they can rely on you.
Get started by gathering all the information you can about the position, organization and industry to determine the situations or problems likely to arise in the role you interview for. Then review the list of common questions below and identify the ones this employer is most likely to ask based on your research. While you likely won’t see a list of the employer’s questions in advance, you can develop a pretty clear idea of the scenarios the interviewer will probably bring up.
Next, thoroughly review your work history to identify experiences that may illustrate your ability to deal with the scenarios in the questions below. If you are starting your career, include experiences in classes, collaborating on class projects and participating in activities and volunteer work.
Look at these common questions to prepare stories about your experience.
Common Behavioral Interview Questions
How have you worked well with deadlines or other high-stress situations? This kind of scenario is the most common behavioral question. Talk about a situation when you handled an intense project or major deadline pressure effectively, how you came up with your response, how others were involved and what the result was.
How did you respond when something significant went wrong on a job or when you made a mistake? Here the interviewer acknowledges there will always be errors or issues, but they want to know you can work through challenges and use critical thinking to solve a problem. Emphasize the resolution, not the significance of the problem or error. Also, talk about the success or effectiveness of your solution.
Talk about a time you set a goal/goals and how you achieved them. The employer wants to know how you organize your work and follow through to reach a goal. Emphasize any qualities you may have that reinforce your capability to persist through steps over time.
Tell me about a time you had an unexpected problem come up and your response.
Most jobs involve dealing with the unexpected—a shipment gets lost, projects stall, a co-worker suddenly quits, etc. The employer is looking for a sense of whether you can roll with the unexpected and find a way to bounce back and respond effectively.
What recent skill have you learned, and how did you tackle learning it? Everyone needs to be willing to develop new skills and learn new things during their career. If you haven’t done any skills-building recently, take an online class or other training now—you can still discuss this in your interviews! Talk about something you’ve learned to improve your work performance and how it helped.
How have you handled an interaction with an especially difficult customer? Employers in customer service depend on employees to remain professional even in the face of poor behavior by customers, so this is a crucial question for anyone applying for work with customers. Emphasize empathy, keeping calm, patience, courtesy and persistence.
What do you do to motivate your team? Leadership success depends on relationships and communication with employees, so here emphasize how you have helped the people who report to you engage at work and achieve success.
What is a career accomplishment you are proud of and why? Here is your chance to show what you find most meaningful in your work and how you have worked to become successful in your career. Emphasize what you learned from your accomplishment, whether others were involved and why it was meaningful.
Describe a major failure in your work life and how you worked through it. This companion to the previous question lets the interviewer know whether you can take a hard knock and get back up and try again. Emphasize what you learned from the experience and what you did to prevent it from recurring.
Describe a time you experienced conflict with a co-worker or supervisor.
This can be tricky because while employers recognize conflict happens, they often want to see it avoided. Aim to focus on a positive result and how you were part of a solution, not the problem. If a compromise or negotiation happened, describe that as well.
Bobby Henline survived two wars and 48 surgeries and now he’s standing in front of an audience on the Huckabee TV show, telling jokes.
“Halloween is my favorite holiday because I make lots of money at the haunted house,” he says. “I made $50 laying in my neighbor’s yard. I even got a modeling job at the Halloween Super Store.”
Henline, who suffered burns on 40% of his body while fighting in Iraq, is loose, cheerful, wearing a sky-blue blazer, jeans and boots.
Photo: Retired U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Bobby Henline, second from right, receives an award at Forward Operating Base Walton, Kandahar province, Afghanistan. Henline and four other wounded warriors visited Afghanistan as a part of Operation Proper Exit. (Public domain photo from defenseimagery.mil).
“It took me four tours and an IED to figure out my lucky number is three… I’m a little slow…”
He’s just getting warmed up. He often warns civilians, “I hope you enjoyed that, because it’s going to get darker.”
“They have a hard time laughing at me,” he said. “They eventually come around.”
This is a story about not being afraid of the dark.
Joking As a Way of Coping
Henline, 51, married to wife Connie and a father of four, was wounded while serving with U.S. Army in the 82nd Airborne Division during the Iraq War. The Humvee he was riding in hit an IED. Four other soldiers were killed. Henline’s face and head were burned to the skull. His left hand and forearm below his elbow were damaged so badly amputation was necessary.
After being put into a medically-induced coma, he awakened after two weeks and underwent six months of treatment. Henline has since had several surgeries including dozens of skin grafts and reconstructions.
While hospitalized, Henline, a veteran of the Gulf War who’d re-enlisted after 9/11, goofed around and told jokes as a means of coping. It happens that he had a great aunt who had a “disformed face,” as he describes it.
“It didn’t stop her. I look to her for strength.”
His occupational therapist urged him to attend an open microphone night at a comedy club. Just to satisfy her, he did so. Backstage at his first performance, he was a nervous wreck. Then he remembered he had written a rap in ninth grade—about constipation.
“When the warning light came on at the end of two minutes to indicate that I still had one more minute to go, I did my constipated rap,” he said.
Henline made his debut on a big a stage in 2009, at the Comedy Store in Los Angeles, and became a regular at open mic nights at comedy clubs like Hollywood Improv and Laugh Factory. He appeared in the Showtime documentary Comedy Warriors: Healing Through Humor, as well as Samsara, Surviving Home, MBF: Man’s Best Friend, Shameless and Larry Charles’ Dangerous World of Comedy.
‘I Needed That Laugh Today’
He helped found the Bravo748 Military and Law Enforcement Speakers Bureau, and he’s traveled the world as a motivational speaker for the organizations. He formed a charity called Forging Forward with the goal of helping troops, first-responders and their families deal with injuries and traumas. “It’s the best revenge I can get for those four men and their families,” says Henline, referring to his four comrades who were lost in the IED explosion.
He knows what survivors and families are going through; after his injuries and loss, he’d been suicidal. He’d prayed for death thousands of times.
“There have been so many times when a Soldier has come up and said, ‘I needed that laugh today,’” Henline said. “We hug and we cry—then we pretend we were chopping onions together, but I’m a big cry baby, I let it all out…. Sometimes I’m there to remind others that they can go on, and sometimes they help remind me.”
Going from fighting in the Middle East to standup comedy seems unlikely, but this is a story about light, too.
“When you talk about the truth—that’s the best comedy,” he said, which is why he issues lines like, “They took my stomach and put it on top of my head. Now, I pick lint out of my ears.”
He looks mischievous after punchlines, like he’s playing a prank and on the verge of cracking himself up.
There are four people who try to dodge his jokes at every chance, though: his kids. One of his daughters stopped following him on Instagram, where 63,000 followers do think he’s funny.
“I don’t know what you’re going to do next,” she told him.
This year, Henline will host several Forging Forward events at military bases and other sites across the country, including a Big Sky Retreat in Helena, Montana on June 1-4.
Groups of six to eight military personnel and first responders will get the chance to explore outlets via fishing, rafting, horseback riding and photography, outlets that “bring you back to who you are,” Henline said. He keeps the events small so that “Nobody gets lost.”
Henline’s newest outlets are fly fishing and golfing. How do you tie a fly with one hand? Part science, part will. How do you golf? He can’t fully explain it.
Out on the links, shanking, chunking, hitting for a double bogey, just trying to break 100 (which he’s done), Henline does not take out his frustrations on himself. With his trademark sardonic smile, he lets his clubs, or the weather, have it.
“I’ve cursed more in a year and a half of golfing than I ever did in the military,” he laughs.
Resumes serve one purpose: to get you noticed. You need to be organized, personally and professionally, so you can create a solid resume and cover letter.
You can get yourself organized by knowing your worth, knowing your Veterans’ preference qualification, knowing what you want and knowing what works.
Know Your Worth
As a veteran or military service member you—
Learn quickly. One reason that you are needed in the federal civilian workforce is that you have already proven you can learn new tasks. You underwent rigorous training. Managers know you understand the value of learning and how to apply it.
Understand the value of teamwork. Teamwork was instilled in you from the moment you entered boot camp. You understand its value and work well with others.
Lead by example. You may have been given opportunity and various experiences to be a leader. Federal civilian jobs need people who are highly motivated and lift up those around them.
Respect authority. People in the federal civilian world respect those who understand rank and authority. Everything has its proper place, and order is needed to function smoothly.
Supervisors take comfort in knowing that you know how to support them with their mission.
Understand cultural diversity. You know how to work alongside others of different races and religions. You can work with coworkers who may be a little different or challenging. You can adjust to different environments when the situation calls for it.
Perform under pressure. You were trained to perform well—even when the going gets a little rough. You do not back down from challenges. Your ability to keep going adds stability to a team.
For all of these reasons and more, you are the kind of high performance candidate the Federal Government needs. Weave these words and themes into your professional resume to remind recruiters and supervisors that it’s not just the candidate, but the quality of his or her character that makes a difference in the workplace.
Know Your Veterans’ Preference Qualifications
In recognition of their service and sacrifice to our country, Congress passed the Veterans’ Preference Act of 1944.
Veterans’ preference is a measurement that provides Veterans special consideration when applying for certain federal civilian jobs. It is intended for Veterans who served on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces and were discharged under honorable conditions. It does not guarantee Veterans a job or give Veterans’ preference in internal agency actions such as promotion, transfer, reassignment and reinstatement. It does, however, give Veterans additional points after their assessment as a qualified candidate for a job in recognition of their status as a service member.
Veterans’ preference scores range from 0 to 10 points. Your Veterans’ preference score is in direct proportion to VA’s assessment of the length and timing of your service and any disability incurred during that time.
To claim Veterans’ preference, you must provide a copy of your DD-214, Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty, or other acceptable documentation as proof of your service. Applicants claiming a 10-point preference will also need to submit Form SF-15, Application for 10-point Veterans’ Preference, located at: http://www.opm.gov/forms/pdf_fill/SF15.pdf.
Different types of jobs call for different types of resumes. Creating resumes for different jobs allows you to highlight the experience you have in one area over another, tailoring your experience to a desired position. For example, on one resume, you may wish to showcase the times you coordinated teams and managed assignments, but on another, you may want to focus on your technical proficiency. USAJOBS allows you to create and save up to five different types of resumes.
Remember: The more your application matches a position’s requirements, the easier it is for recruiters to assess that you are a suitable candidate.
What makes a resume good or bad can come down to several common indicators, as much as the format you choose.
Enrolling in a trade school after military service can be challenging. Some institutions lack programs that allow returning service members to maximize their potential.
Others may be unable to offer the funding and resources veterans need to succeed in the classroom. However, there are military-friendly trade schools vets should consider when furthering their education or pursuing new career paths.
What Makes a Trade School Good for Veterans?
Trade schools are an excellent option for veterans looking to further their education.
Many returning military service members who enroll in vocational programs enjoy the hands-on training they get to supplement their traditional classroom instruction.
Others like the flexible scheduling that allows them to balance their work, home, and school obligations more easily.
A Shorter Cost Efficient Way to Establish a Career
However, one of the most common reasons veterans choose to attend trade schools over traditional colleges and universities is that they can complete a program in less time and for less money. Instead of taking two to four years to get a degree, you can finish a trade school course in anywhere from six months to a year and start working in your chosen field.
Applying Military Training to Skilled Trades Transferable Skillsets
Many of the skills veterans learn in the military are also essential for those working in trade careers.
For example, the same teamwork, communication, and interpersonal skills that helped you build relationships with fellow service members and commanding officers may come into play when interacting with employers, coworkers, and customers.
Other transferable military skills that are essential for trade jobs include analytical thinking, risk management, attention to detail, adaptability, and the ability to work well under pressure.
Specific Skills Learned in the Military
Some military skills might even relate to a specific trade, like applying weapons training to a job in criminal justice or going from a fighter pilot to an airline or commercial pilot.
Whatever branch of the military you served in, you can find a skilled trade or vocational school program that helps you apply the skills and training you learned in the military to a civilian career. In fact, many trade schools offer specific workshops and resources for veterans looking to make a smooth transition from the military to the workforce.
Must-Haves for a Military-Friendly Trade School
Generally speaking, a military-friendly trade school should have the four elements below.
1. Financial Aid for Military Students
Tuition assistance from U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs programs and GI Bill Benefits or through military-specific scholarship and grant opportunities.
2. Veteran-Specific Academic Assistance
Academic advisors that help veterans choose programs that suit their military skillset and possibly receive course credits for previous military experience.
3. Post-Graduation Career Placement Resources
Resume-crafting workshops, interview practice, job fairs, and networking events to help students find jobs with military-friendly employers and organizations.
4. On-Campus, Student-Run Veteran’s Center
A strong community of military students offering vouchers for food, transportation and books, plus support through study and tutoring groups and counseling referrals.
Continue on here to view a list of Schools & Programs for Veterans.
Survivor season 43 winner Mike Gabler has donated $100,000 of his $1 million prize winnings to Veterans Exploring Treatment Solutions (VETS), a non-profit providing resources, research, and advocacy for U.S. special operations military veterans seeking mental health treatment with psychedelic-assisted therapies.
Gabler selected 10 veteran organizations to split his winnings with —highlighting non-profits that help former service members with PTSD and traumatic brain injury (TBI) who are at risk of suicide.
Mike Gabler’s donation was made on behalf of his father, Robert Gabler, who was a Green Beret, to veterans in need who are overcoming health challenges and to curb the suicide epidemic.
As a nonprofit organization that supports veterans in accessing psychedelic-assisted therapies, VETS recognizes the critical importance of psychedelic research. Recent Phase 3 trials of MDMA-assisted therapy for PTSD are demonstrating the significant impact of psychedelic treatment on individuals suffering from trauma-related disorders. Other compounds, like psilocybin and ibogaine, are also showing incredible promise in addressing these issues—but more research is critically needed.
Gabler’s donation will directly support VETS’ work to provide resources, research, and advocacy for veterans seeking psychedelic-assisted therapies.
“There is nothing like the support of the military and veteran community, and we are incredibly grateful to Mike Gabler, the son of an Army Special Forces veteran, for donating a portion of his Survivor winnings to VETS. Mike exemplifies the notion of serving those who’ve served, and we honor and value his outstanding leadership and unparalleled commitment to giving back,” said Marcus Capone, Co-Founder and Chairman of VETS.
VETS and its community greatly appreciates the donation from Gabler and is looking forward to expanding access to psychedelic-assisted therapies to additional veterans to ultimately put an end to veteran suicide.
In 1948 Dr. Sir Ludwig Guttman, who escaped Nazi Germany and found solace in Stoke Mandeville, England, became the father of disability sport and, eventually, the Paralympic Games. His goal was to return spinal cord-injured WWII veterans to a healthy and active lifestyle using sport as the tool. The practice continues to this day with hundreds if not thousands of disability sports groups supporting wounded, ill and injured service members who have been injured on the battlefield or off.
I was fortunate to be the founder of the United States Olympic Committees Paralympic Military Sports Program in 2004. It began a lifelong pursuit of using sport as the conduit to healthy, active lifestyles both for the military and civilians.
I had a passion for this work for at least two reasons. First, I was a product of it. Though the programs I outlined were not in existence, I used sport as a tool for my recovery and, in the process, made two Paralympic teams.
Second, the relationships I forged during my time in the Army’s Community and Family Support Center (CFSC) under the tutelage of the best boss I ever had, Colleen Amstein, prepared me for building this program with familiar commanders who had once welcomed me to their military installations when I was the associated director for the Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers Program, or (BOSS).
Contrary to the belief that this program was easy to build, it was not. If you remember, in 2004, Americans were unsure if they wanted to defend the new war. Debates were high about whether WMDs or weapons of mass destruction existed.
This was supposed to be Dad’s war, and over in a matter of days, just like Desert Shield/Desert Storm. When casualties, primarily amputation, began to overrun Water Reed Medical Center, military commanders did not know how to build a program centering on injured veterans who had fought for our freedoms. We’re now fighting to rebuild their lives.
In my 15 years of building these programs, let me share why sports are essential for both military injured and civilians with disabilities.
Belonging: The greatest observation I made was that every service member, no matter how limited they were by their disability, first longed for reconnection to the unit they left behind. There was a sense of abandonment. They felt as if they had left their buddies on the battlefield.
Overwhelmingly there was a consensus to get back to the battlefield.
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs has our basic needs at its base: food, shelter and clothing. But underneath it all is belonging.
Injured service members begin to find a new community when sports are introduced. They are healing together, and sports have become the conduit to the community. I witnessed service members who were reluctant to play a sport, time and again, become that sport’s number one cheerleader.
Confidence: A person with an acquired disability may not know their new capabilities. Why? Because they are dealing with a new set of data points. In my keynote speech, “Amputate Fear: Hurdle Adversity, Embrace Your New Normal Mindset,” I share that the NNMS begins with rebirth. We have to relearn how to function by adapting to our new environment.
Sports like sitting volleyball, wheelchair basketball and goalball are team sports allowing service members to test their skills and grow in their new environment. Each session increases their confidence in their abilities. Eventually, they become strong enough to do the sports independently or find the confidence to try other activities. Some athletes even pursue a higher level of sport and make Paralympic teams.
Self-Identity: I believe one of the most remarkable outcomes of sports for the service-connected person is understanding who they are.
When a person has an acquired disability, they have to work through societal stigma. All of our lives, we are shown images of people with disabilities who are perceived as less than others in society.
In the movies, people with disabilities are villains. At the end of October, we see ghosts, goblins and goons come out for Halloween. Have you noticed that many are disfigured? Many have disabilities, or what some may call deformities. Others have hidden disabilities like mental health conditions.
When a person transitions from being temporarily abled-bodied (TAB) to disabled or “disfigured,” they wrestle with the fact that they are not the character they have been accustomed to seeing portrayed by society.
Sports help to normalize disability. People begin to walk confidently by challenging the status quo through physical actions — their mental acuteness returns. There is work to get to this “resolve” moment, and sport brings us back to that identity of not caring how other people view us. We walk with confidence in knowing who we are because we have done the work of learning our new capabilities because of sport.
Two programs that helped me in this regard were kayaking on the San Marcos River and single rowing on Lady Bird Lake in Austin, Texas.
I wonder if Sir Ludwig Guttman understood the depth and vastness of his work, as he primarily focused on spinal cord injuries. But through his vision, I was inspired to continue his legacy of using sports for all those who need to embrace a new normal mindset.
Whether 2023 is the year you transition to the civilian sector or you’re simply looking for a career switch, your military skillset has prepared you for a tremendous number of jobs. Here are the hottest jobs for 2023:
For those who enjoy working with your hands or have experience in construction and engineering from the military, working in electricity may be the perfect fit for you. Electricians install, maintain and repair electrical power, communications, lighting and control systems in homes, businesses and factories.
Training and Education: To become an electrician, you must have your high school diploma or equivalent. Most electricians learn their trade in a 4- or 5-year apprenticeship program, receiving 2,000 hours of paid on-the-job training and technical instruction. However, workers who gained electrical experience in the military or in the construction industry may qualify for a shortened apprenticeship based on their experience and testing.
Work Environment: Electricians work indoors and outdoors at homes, businesses, factories and construction sites. Because electricians must travel to different worksites, local or long-distance commuting is often required. They may need to work in cramped, noisy spaces from time to time or at great heights for construction and renewable energy-type projects.
Average Salary: $60,040
Job Growth Rate: 7% (average)
Financial analysts guide businesses and individuals in decisions about spending money to attain a profit. They assess the performance of stocks, bonds and other types of investments. Veterans’ abilities to quickly adapt to new circumstances, take on the helm of leadership and stay organized are especially helpful in this role.
Training and Education: Most entry-level positions for financial analysts require a bachelor’s degree, preferably in a business field. You should also have your securities industry license, which is generally sponsored by the employer and is not required before starting a job. Obtaining a Chartered Financial Analyst certification can also improve the chances of workplace advancement.
Work Environment: Financial analysts work primarily in offices but may travel to visit companies or clients. They work full-time hours of at least 40 hours per week.
Average Salary: $95,570
Job Growth Rate: 9% (faster than average)
Information Security Analyst
Information security analysts plan and carry out security measures to protect an organization’s computer networks and systems. If you have experience working with encrypted messages or cybersecurity during your time in the military, this career is the perfect fit for your experiences.
Training and Education: Information security analysts typically need a bachelor’s degree in computer and information technology or a related field, such as engineering or math. However, some workers enter the occupation with a high school diploma and relevant industry training and certifications. Employers may prefer to hire analysts who have professional certification in information security.
Work Environment: Many information security analysts work in an office-like setting with other members of an information technology department, such as network administrators or computer systems analysts. Most information security analysts work full-time but may have to be on call outside of regular business hours in case of an emergency.
Average Salary: $102,600
Job Growth Rate: 35% (faster than average)
Registered nurses (RNs) provide and coordinate patient care, educate patients and the public about various health conditions and provide advice and emotional support to patients and their families. They often administer medications and treatments, help families administer care, operate and monitor equipment and consult with healthcare professionals. This job is perfect for veterans as the job often calls for individuals that are calm under pressure and can quickly adapt to new situations.
Training and Education: Registered nurses usually take one of three education paths: a bachelor’s degree in nursing, an associate degree in nursing or a diploma from an approved nursing program. Registered nurses must be licensed.
Work Environment: Registered nurses may work in hospitals, schools and offices. They often do a lot of bending, stretching and standing and are in close contact with people with different infectious diseases. Their work schedules depend on their specific setting but can range from typical full-time shifts to around-the-clock coverage.
Average Salary: $77,600
Job Growth Rate: 6% (average)
Human Resources Manager
Human resources managers plan, coordinate and direct the administrative functions of an organization. They oversee the recruiting, interviewing and hiring of new staff, consult with top executives on strategic planning, and connect an organization’s management and its employees. Veterans with experience in managing staff allocation and leadership experience are especially fit for this job.
Training and Education: Human resources managers typically need a bachelor’s degree to enter the occupation. The degree may be in human resources or another field, such as business, communications or psychology. They typically have a combination of education and related work experience to enter management positions. Courses in subjects such as conflict management may be helpful.
Work Environment: Human resources managers work at least 40 hours a week in offices. Some managers, especially those working for organizations that have offices nationwide, travel to visit other branches, attend professional meetings or recruit employees.
Average Salary: $126,230
Job Growth Rate: 7% (average)
Sources: Indeed, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
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