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America Supports You: Organization Hires Heroes

By Jamie Findlater
Special to American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 18, 2008 – Returning from combat in Iraq or Afghanistan with a disability certainly brings with it a number of challenges, but for one soldier, a great aid to his successful recovery was the easy transition he made into the civilian job market.

Justin Callahan enlisted in the U.S Army as a combat engineer when he was 18. When he was 21, he deployed to Afghanistan, where he led an eight-man squad. During a routine patrol, Justin was hit by an improvised explosive device and suffered a left leg amputation below the knee.

During his recovery at Walter Reed Army Medical Center here, Justin was approached by John Bardis, a businessman who offered him a job as soon as his health returned.

Callahan inspired Bardis to found Hire Heroes USA, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping disabled veterans to find the right fit in the civilian job market. Hire Heroes USA is a member of America Supports You, a Defense Department program that connects individuals, non-profit groups and companies who want to support U.S. military men and women.

“Hire Heroes USA was designed to give other wounded servicemembers like myself the opportunity that I was fortunate to have right out of the hospital,” Callahan said during an interview on America Supports You Live BlogTalkRadio. He and Bayne Tippins, the organization's director, discussed the Hire Heroes USA's success during the interview.

Callahan explained that the biggest challenge for many wounded warriors is getting their confidence reestablished after a tragic event.

“It’s really to pick them up and point them in the right direction, helping them to re-establish the confidence they’ve lost going through something traumatic … and the direction to move forward,” he said.

Part of reestablishing this confidence is understanding how the skills developed in the military apply to the civilian job market. One skill, Callahan mentioned, is leadership.

“A noncommissioned officer is responsible for six to eight soldiers operating under very stressful situations. … They are taught the hard things by the military.”

Callahan talked about his day-to-day experience working with countless organizations that see great value in employing those with military experience. Employers notice military experience and benefit from an incredibly motivated group of individuals, Callahan explained.

“These men and women are so motivated to get into a good job that has a steady salary where they have the opportunity to advance.”

Now the challenge for Callahan and Tippins is reaching out to the many veterans who might need assistance and do not realize how to best market their skills to a new audience. Callahan explained that the organization places everyone from sales reps to information technology professionals, and from security personnel to project managers.

“A lot of servicemembers don’t know what’s out there. They are used to doing a certain job in the military, and when they get in the civilian world they do not always know how to apply and transfer the skills they have learned making them noticeable to employers,” Callahan said.

One example of many such skills is the ability to handle logistics, Tippins said.

“Getting men and troops and supplies from point A to point B is an incredibly transferable skill,” he said.

Tippins also said learning new skills easily is a common attribute of veterans.

“They are extremely trainable,” he said. “The acquisition of the new skills within a new position comes easily because of their experience in the military.”

Tippins explained that the mission of Hire Heroes USA is to reach out to candidates, identify their strong qualities, and let them know that there are jobs available for them.

“Some servicemembers just need to understand that company XYZ has a need for you. … Hire Heroes USA is designed to be a bridge to get out in front of organizations that are anxious to hire them,” Tippins said. “We want to help them adjust to becoming a great member of society that they have already defended so bravely.”

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