Veterans Salute – Braden Matejek

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“I joined the military in 2009 after graduating high school in South Dakota to help those around the world whose voices go unnoticed.”

Braden Matejek works as a Production Control Clerk at PRIDE Industries’ Marine Corps Base Hawaii (MCBH) contract. Located near Honolulu, HI, the MCBH hosts 9,517 people including Marine Corps members, sailors, military family members and civilian employees. In his job, Braden acts as a liaison between the Marines Corps and the PRIDE facilities team to make sure the overall condition of the buildings is in top shape – helping keep the barracks home-like for our country’s troops and their families.

Before joining PRIDE Industries, Braden served in the U.S. Army for 7 years, where he learned the leadership skills that have helped him succeed in his career today:

“I enrolled as a PV2 in the Dog Company, 1/503 BN, 173rd Airborne Brigade. Following completion of Basic and Advanced Infantry school, as well as the Airborne school in Ft. Benning, GA, I was sent to Vicenza, Italy. I was stationed there for three short months in 2010 before we were deployed to serve in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.”

“Serving in Afghanistan was a humbling experience; our mission was to fight against the Taliban insurgent forces. I experienced major culture shock while living in this hostile environment, but also gained a sense of gratitude for so many things that I had took for granted. During intense situations, I learned patience, and developed a tenacity for overcoming obstacles and challenging events. I became aware that I am capable of accomplishing anything and grew into that “never quit” mentality.”

“During my second deployment to Afghanistan in 2012, I earned a promotion to Sergeant (E5), which came with the responsibility of leading a squad of young men during an incredibly rough period. Through our time together, I watched them grow and develop throughout harsh conditions and ferocious firefights. When my team and I exited off the C17 aircraft in Ft. Bragg, NC, where our families were waiting to welcome us back with open arms, I felt incredibly proud that I had helped lead them back safely to home soil.”

“I unfortunately acquired a service-connected disability during this second tour in Afghanistan due to multiple IED strikes on my vehicle and was awarded two Purple Hearts. The hardest part of having a newly acquired disability was learning to accept myself as the same person, just with different traits.”

Braden Matajek receives the Purple Heart medal

Braden Matejek accepts his Purple Heart medals earned while serving in Afghanistan

“After reaching my last post in Hawaii in 2016, I decided it was time to pursue other avenues in life. I finished my tenure as an E5/Sergeant and was medically discharged from service. Transition to civilian life was difficult; the first few weeks were like the honeymoon phase of being married; then real life soon sets in. I missed the brotherhood of the Infantry and loyalty of those men and women that I served with.”

“Establishing a support system of friends and family, as well as finding a passion, is vital to any veteran’s success after military life. I started spending more time at the ocean, took up free-diving and surrounded myself with a great people of a common mind. My other piece of advice for transitioning to civilian life is to take things slow, remain flexible and resilient, and follow your plan to success. Remember your military training and become comfortable knowing that you hold the correct skill set to carry you forward. Much of my own self-reliance and perseverance was used to get me to where I am today.”

“Another challenging aspect of transitioning to civilian life was searching for a new career; I searched for positions through USA Jobs, but received no offers. I eventually googled “work for disabled veterans,” and PRIDE Industries came up. I was soon connected with the incredible Job Developer/AbilityOne Recruiter Sean Sullivan and was hired in 2016.”

“I love the opportunity to continue interacting with our young men and women in uniform and enjoy the chance to share my military expertise while managing the barracks on base. My experience with PRIDE has been excellent, and I am trusted to do my job correctly. The accommodations for employees with disabilities are wonderful, and everyone is given the opportunity to succeed in employment.”

“Working for PRIDE Industries has made my life in Hawaii more purposeful and has given me the ability to enjoy moments with my family more than any other company would.”

Veterans Salute – David

Soldier in the office

In search of an opportunity to make a difference, David (last name withheld) joined the U.S. Air Force fresh out of high school in 1983. “This was my first real job besides working at a local restaurant as a busboy, while growing in Temple City, CA. I saw joining the military as a chance to serve my country and to help keep people safe.”

After enlisting, David attended basic training at Lackland Airforce Base in San Antonio, TX and graduated as an Airman Basic (E-1). Then after completing 12 weeks of specialized training, he joined the 88th Strategic Air Command Missile Squadron as a Security Specialist. “It was a complete culture shock; I transitioned from a civilian with choices to a service member with a strict regimen and structure. They say you start as a rainbow, then become a green bean (once uniforms are issued) and finally get a haircut and now you are officially a canned green bean.”

David earned promotions throughout his service; from an Airman Basic (E-1), to Airman (E-2) and then Airman 1st Class (E-3). He served his remaining time at Francis E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming during the Cold War, providing security services and surveillance to Minuteman-3s nuclear warheads that were ready to launch in case of conflict.

In 1985, David was discharged honorably due to lack of war. “The transition back into civilian life was much easier than my development into an Airman. After being stationed on a remote base for so long, I enjoyed having more freedom. I also carried with me the discipline, time management and organizational skills learned from my time in the military.”

Despite his ease in transitioning to civilian life, David faced other challenges; he later received a dual diagnosis of both ADHD (Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) and Anxiety Disorder from the Veterans Administration (VA) in 2003. Nearly 40 million Americans (18%) experience Anxiety Disorder; ADHD affects around 4% of American adults. Both disorders cause lack of concentration and racing thoughts, which can impair everyday life.

“Before joining the service, I had never received any treatment for these conditions. Despite having these undiagnosed disabilities, I persevered and graduated from Tech school with a score of 98% when many of the course instructors doubted my ability to graduate.”

“While looking for civilian work, I continued to struggle with my communication skills. When I could not manage my anxiety, this would lead to outbursts and growing frustration with coworkers and employers. I was eventually able to use the tools and resources acquired in the military to cover up my disabilities and find a variety of jobs, including work at a grocery chain, acting and selling real estate.”

After receiving foot surgery in 2017, David had an accident and obtained mobility-related disabilities. While looking for work that would be a good fit and that would accommodate his disabilities, David was referred by his VA Representative at the Jewish Vocational Services to PRIDE Industries in Spring 2018. After interviewing, he was hired as a Service Order Dispatcher at PRIDE’s LAAFB contract site in May 2018.

“This job is perfect for me,” said David. “I like the challenges that come with solving different work orders at the customer service desk. Working at LAAFB, I interact with a wide variety of customers – from civilians all the way up to the Secretary of the Air Force.”

“The comradery at PRIDE is strong; my team treats each other like family and are very accommodating, especially with allowing supports for my disabilities. Job Coach Brandon Whatley and Araceli Gutierrez helped me transition to my new role and taught me other skills to help me succeed at my job.”

“It’s different, but a pleasant and familiar experience being back on a military base, especially now that I am receiving treatment for my ADHD and Anxiety; I understand all the protocols and acronyms. It’s exciting to have a career with room for advancement and new possibilities where I do not need to hide my disabilities.”

“If there were one piece of advice I could give to today’s transitioning veterans, it would be to seek out help from veteran support groups and services. The benefits provided today are far better than those offered at my time of discharge; however, it saddens me to know that many veterans do not receive enough training on how to maximize their benefits; seeking adequate treatment can be life-changing.”