America Supports You: Program Paves Road to Jobs for Wounded Vets
By Elaine Wilson
Special to American Forces Press Service
FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas, Sep. 21, 2006 Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Alex Morales may have lost both his legs while on a training mission in support of the global war on terrorism, but he was standing tall Sept. 19 at the Hiring Heroes Career Fair here.
Army Sgt. Sandra Scott, a wounded warrior recovering at Brooke Army Medical Center, discusses job opportunities Sept. 19 with Calvin Holland, from the Washington-Harris Group, at the Hiring Heroes Career Fair at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. More than 200 wounded warriors, veterans and families attended the job fair; many walked away with more than one job prospect. Photo by Elaine Wilson
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Morales walked away from the job fair with several enticing offers of employment, including one from Northrop Grumman, a global defense company committed to hiring wounded warriors.
“He’s giving me a job,” said Morales, speaking of company recruiter Larry Rutherford. “I have a list of jobs in Illinois, and I’m going to research each one and let him know which one is the most appealing.”
Morales, who is recovering at Brooke Army Medical Center here, was one of 200 wounded warriors, veterans and family members who stopped by the career fair to explore job opportunities and hone interview skills with job recruiters. Forty-five recruiters from the Defense Department and other federal agencies, as well as from private-sector companies, set up shop at the Sam Houston Club to entice wounded warriors and their families with job offers.
In its second year, the Hiring Heroes program has helped more than 1,000 injured servicemembers and their families connect with potential employers.
“Our career fairs are a way to give hope and show the servicemembers that someone cares,” said Karen Hannah, Hiring Heroes program manager. “I’ve had several recruiters who served in Vietnam tell me it would have been great if there had been something like this for them.”
The fair here is the organization’s seventh in two years, with the first held at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, in Washington, D.C., in April 2004.
“I know of at least 70 job offers so far in the past two years,” Hannah said. “And that’s not including all of the offers that will come once servicemembers leave the hospital.”
The career fair at Fort Sam Houston is sure to boost her tally, with a packed room of servicemembers eager to work and employers anxious to hire them.
Army Reserve Lt. Col. Rod Santellanes, who works for National Lending Corporation in civilian life, said he met more than a few promising candidates. “We’re looking to fill part- and full-time positions,” he said. “I’m so proud to have the opportunity to serve the heroes of America.”
At the Northrop Grumman booth, Rutherford said the company is looking to support both the servicemember and family. “If a servicemember can’t work, then we’ll hire a spouse or primary caregiver. We hired a father not long ago.”
Army Sgt. Christopher Kind said he hopes to work for a company like Northrop Grumman, which has positions in the Pacific theater, where he hopes to move. Kind is due to be released from the military in a few months after a long recovery at BAMC. He was injured in a mortar blast in Iraq.
“I was in Iraq for about two months when it happened. One night we were getting ready to bed down and I remember talking with a friend, mostly just gossip. The next thing I knew, I woke up here (at BAMC),” he said.
Kind suffered burns on 45 percent of his body; however, the wounds have not stopped the logistics soldier from moving on with his life. “I’m looking for work,” he said. “Several employers saw my resume and were impressed, so I’m optimistic.”
“These servicemembers have had their life turned upside-down,” Hannah said. “At first, their biggest fear was being wounded. Then, when the soldier begins to recuperate, their biggest fears become: ‘Can I get a job?’ ‘How will I support my family?’ And also, ‘Who will hire me now?’”
Hannah said she has no doubt the career fair can help ease those fears. “The employers here today are willing to hire people and train them. Every servicemember has skills -- a gunner has been taught how to train others, team build and organizational skills. There’s enough there to get an entry-level job.”
The career fair sets servicemembers up for success, since the companies in attendance all have something in common, she said. “They care.”
Hiring Heroes is co-sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, DoD’s Military Severely Injured Center and Monster.com, a networking hub for current and former military people, defense workers and their families.
(Elaine Wilson is assigned to the Fort Sam Houston Public Information Office.)