Feels Like I Never Left

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Richard Wilson, joined the PRIDE Industries team at Fort Bliss, TX in 2014 after serving 18 years in the U.S. Army. Richard retired as a staff sergeant/E-6.
At PRIDE Industries, we help individuals who return with physical, emotional, and mental health disabilities that create obstacles to employment and self-sufficiency.

Richard became an orphan as a very young boy. His first few years were spent in a South Korean orphanage until an American couple adopted him. At eight years old Richard relocated to the U.S. with his new family. Learning a new language, adapting to a different culture, along with being given a new American name was challenging, recalls Richard.

He grew up in a small town in northwest Nevada. His teenage years were rough as he made wrong decisions and was going down the wrong path and barely graduated high school. Richard hungered for a fresh start. He joined the U.S. Army hoping it would provide a better future.

“I did not think I was going to make a career in the military, luckily it was exactly what I needed,” says Richard. While in the service Richard held several positions and completed three tours in Iraq. His time in the military left visible and hidden battle wounds.

Once his military career ended, he had difficulty transitioning to the civilian workforce. Richard attended multiple job fairs and joined numerous veteran’s programs, but nothing came through and he was unemployed for six months.

Though Richard aspired to continue protecting his country after retirement, life had other plans. “I wanted to be a border patrol or law enforcement agent, but I was unable due to my medical condition.”

Fortunately, Richard met Cynthia Baca at a job fair. Cynthia is a Recruiter for PRIDE at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas, focusing on individuals qualified under the AbilityOne Program. Under the AbilityOne program – a federal initiative to create jobs for individuals with significant disabilities – PRIDE Industries provides base-wide facilities support to the Army installation. “After I got into the program, Ms. Baca always updated me on new job listings and helped me apply,” says Richard. For Richard, Cynthia’s efforts to help him become employed were unlike anything he had experienced before. He credits her for his success at PRIDE, “I now refer other disabled veterans to Ms. Baca for help.” Learn more about Cynthia Baca.

Once at PRIDE, Richard began as a service order desk clerk. Later, Richard’s skills and work ethic earned him a promotion to the warehouse as a stocker. “Helping the technicians is the best part of this job,” says Richard. “I love working at PRIDE Industries, and my co-workers in the warehouse are like family.”

Although he loves his job, he does miss being a soldier. Luckily, his job at PRIDE has an additional benefit. “Working in a military community feels like I never left the Army,” says Richard. “It is rewarding contributing to the team that helps soldiers and the civilians that work with them.”

Though Richard’s military career ended with a disability and new challenges, he is grateful for the opportunity. “PRIDE allows me to continue to serve the military community,” says Richard.

We are so glad you found your place with PRIDE Industries Richard and thank you for your service. To learn more about PRIDE’s employment services for veterans visit: prideindustriesfoundation.org/programs.

Saluting Those Who Serve: Frank Goehringer

pride-industries-_-frank-military-pic_editedAfter graduating from college, Frank Goehringer wanted to serve the country that he loved while pursuing a career. He enlisted in the California Army National Guard in 1988, a commitment that continued throughout two decades. Service brought Frank around the country and the world to Germany, Panama and Italy. Despite over a decade of experience, the most significant and challenging part of his service was in 2003 when the United States had declared war on Iraq; Frank learned that he would immediately be sent over.

To support Operation Iraqi Freedom, Frank served in a military intelligence unit. His job duties included identifying, assessing and countering threats to the military. “Even though I had been stationed abroad before, it was a big adjustment getting used to working in an active war zone,” says Frank. During this period, he became injured and required surgery. While receiving medical treatment, Frank received the devastating news that four troops had been attacked and killed – including soldiers in his former convoy.

“I didn’t get to participate much in the battlefield, but I witnessed the full impact of war.”

During his recovery from surgery, Frank volunteered to help other soldiers attend doctor appointments. It was there that he witnessed the physical, mental and emotional aftermath of war. “This was a very emotional time for me,” says Frank. “After I deployed to Iraq, a lot changed within me. I made it my personal mission to help our country’s veterans, especially after seeing the challenges that most faced after coming home.”

While lending a helping hand, including personally hosting some homeless veterans in his house, Frank learned best how to help veterans transition to civilian life. “One of the biggest challenges facing younger and recent veterans now is that they learn many useful skills – but have a difficult time translating these to civilian job positions while drafting a resume and cover letter. The lack of civilian workplace connections and living with the effects and stigma of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) also creates obstacles to employment. “

After retiring from the National Guard, Frank decided to look for a new career opportunity. By chance, he met with a PRIDE Industries recruiter and was recommended for the PRIDE’s Veteran’s Liaison – a new position created in 2012. “Coming to PRIDE was an incredible experience. It was amazing seeing what people with disabilities can do given the opportunity. I wanted to help expand these opportunities to veterans – with and without disabilities.”

Frank soon got to work. Through his position, he helps veterans navigate through different government programs to get benefits and prepares them for employment. Frank uses his extensive knowledge of veteran networks to expand the company recruiting outreach. To bridge the gap between military and civilian skills, he helped with the creation of PRIDE’s internship program in 2014, where veterans are placed in a three-month paid internship to gain valuable work experience. Throughout his time at PRIDE Industries, Frank has successfully reached out to help veterans gain access to opportunities across the nation.

Frank’s commitment to his country and fellow veterans has continued beyond his role at PRIDE. He is a member of various organizations including AMVETS, AUSA (Association of the US Army), American Legion, DAV (Disabled American Veterans), VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) and Placer County Veteran Stand Down. Frank also is a volunteer and member with the Veteran Administration’s No Veteran Dies Alone, an organization which supports veterans in hospice care.

Thank you for your service and dedication Frank, and for your excellent efforts to help out our nation’s veterans. We are proud to have you at PRIDE Industries.

Saluting Those Who Serve: Enoch Mitchell

 

pride-industries-_-enoch-mitchell“I wanted to serve in the US military to make a difference in the world.” Enoch Mitchell was inspired to join the Army after witnessing the 9/11 attacks in his hometown of NYC. In 2008, he enlisted with his older brother. With his previous education in aviation, Enoch completed his basic training in in air defense. In 2010, he deployed to Iraq to serve in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“I felt nervous but was excited to serve my country abroad. When I left, I flew to Germany first and then to a base near Baghdad, Iraq,” says Enoch. “After leaving the airplane and feeling the heat and seeing the red sky and American casualties – this all became reality.”

In his role as a Sergeant, Enoch kept the base safe by notifying soldiers of incoming artillery and intercepting rocket fire. This demanding positioning requires an advanced knowledge of air defense systems to provide 24/7 protection. During this period, Enoch shattered his leg; metal plates and pins were placed in the bone to keep it together. Due to this injury, his tour ended in 2011.

“It felt bittersweet coming home. It was good to be back, but I missed the familiarity and closeness of the military,” says Enoch.

After returning to the United States, Enoch requested to be stationed at Ft. Bliss until he retired in 2013. Transitioning from the military into civilian life is often a challenge, especially for veterans with service disabilities. Enoch struggled to find work. He found jobs at call centers, but none gave flexible accommodations that allowed him to deal with his injured leg and as a result, were short-lived. Enoch kept looking, and fortunately in 2015 was connected with PRIDE Industries.

Previously while stationed at Ft. Bliss, Enoch had interacted with PRIDE employees working on this contract. “From my experience, I saw that PRIDE was excellent company to work for, especially with the mission to create jobs for people with disabilities.” He worked with PRIDE’s AbilityOne Recruiter, Cynthia Baca, to apply for positions. Two months later, Enoch started working as a Service Order Desk Clerk, where he handles service orders through the plumbing shop.

Enoch has become a valued member of his team. Accommodations such as an ergonomic chair and a standing desk to make computer work comfortable for his leg, as well as flexibility for stretching breaks and medical appointments, have allowed him to thrive in his position. “I cannot see myself working anywhere else,” says Enoch. “PRIDE is different because they see you as more than just an employee, but as a person. The professionalism and teamwork exhibited by my colleagues make working here pleasant.”

Looking toward the future, Enoch is aiming to get into a management position. His mother recently relocated from El Paso from Brooklyn, and he proudly bought her a vehicle. Enoch hopes to have to rest of his family relocate to El Paso to reunite and to eventually purchase a home.

“I always feel respected as an employee, and greatly enjoy my job and coworkers. When you do what you love, and you never work a day in your life,” says Enoch. “I get to do this.”

We are glad to have veterans such as Enoch be a part of the team at PRIDE Industries, and help them to achieve their new goals and dreams.

Saluting Those Who Serve: Ron Adams

pride-industries-_-ronleyadams_editedRonly “Ron” Adams grew up in the small community of Dothan, Alabama. After graduating high school, he worked in the healthcare field. Although he earned a paycheck, Ron found himself longing to be part of a bigger calling. Deciding to serve his country, Ron enlisted in the Marine Corps in 2006.

Ron soon moved to North Carolina for basic training. These preparations were both mentally and physically challenging but made him ready for the next step. When volunteers were asked to deploy to Iraq in 2007, Ron raised his hand. “The attacks of 9/11 were still fresh in my mind and heart, and I wanted to defend my country,” says Ron. “I was nervous but excited; this is what I signed up for.”

In the Marine Corps, Ron served as an E3 Lance Corporal. In this role, he drove in a convoy for long trips across the country, clearing roads of IEDs (improvised explosive devices). This work was dangerous but necessary; these weapons were responsible for a majority of the deaths to service members in Iraq.

“While traveling out with the convoys, we got to meet and be friendly with the civilians. I passed out candy and muffins to the kids,” says Ron. “It was here where I observed how much freedom we have in the United States. We have so much to be grateful for.”

After serving a one-year tour in Iraq, Ron returned home to Alabama. Even though he had returned with a greater appreciation for life in America, transitioning to a civilian life proved to be difficult. “It took a while for me to adjust; I sometimes thought that it would be easier to re-deploy,” says Ron. “However, with time, I began to heal.” With the winding down of his military career in 2010, Ron began searching for a new career path.

Finding employment turned out to be another obstacle to civilian life. Before coming to PRIDE Industries, Ron worked a series of jobs with no benefits. A friend recommended that he apply for opportunities at PRIDE’s contract at Fort Rucker, Alabama. Ron got in touch with Stephany Marshall, PRIDE’s Rehabilitation Counselor at Fort Rucker. She recommended him for a Maintenance Trades Helper position, and Ron was hired in 2014.

Due to his hard work and drive to succeed, Ron excelled in his new job. Wanting to advance, he decided to go for a pest control position. For several months, Ron diligently studied and passed the tests to earn his pest control license and gained the promotion. This position came with not only a higher paycheck but also greater independence and satisfaction in his work.

“After leaving the military, I missed being in the Marines. This feeling has continued, but working for PRIDE makes me feel at home,” says Ron. “My job on base gives me a sense of comradery and an opportunity to support the military.”

Recently, Ron purchased a home and a new vehicle and is resettling into civilian life with his wife and three children. “With this job position, I have been able to help my family out financially while continuing to participate in military life. I could not imagine being anywhere else.”

From all of us at PRIDE Industries, thank you, Ron, for your service and contributions to our country. We are proud to have you as a colleague.

Saluting Those Who Serve: Javier Heredia

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“I have always wanted to be a soldier and serve my country.” Following in the footsteps of his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather, Javier Heredia enlisted in the US Army as soon as he graduated from high school in El Paso, Texas. He served from 2010-2015, including a deployment in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.

In Afghanistan, Javier worked as an SPC 13F Forward Observer. In this demanding position, the soldier keeps track of the positions of both friendly troops and opposing forces. They also go behind enemy lines to keep track of movements and to provide the right coordinates for fire. Javier completed his tour of duty in 2015 and returned to his hometown where he was stationed at Fort Bliss, TX. Because of his disability, he was medically discharged and retired from the Army.

After retirement, Javier had no source of income or a job. “I would send in application over application without luck. I filed for unemployment and food stamps just to make sure I had money and food to support my wife and daughters,” says Javier. After receiving no offers of employment, he became even more anxious about his situation. Javier contemplated pursuing a security guard job until he received a call from for an interview with PRIDE Industries. Two weeks later, he was officially employed.

In March 2016, Javier joined the PRIDE Industries team at Fort Bliss, as a Property and Fleet Clerk, where PRIDE provides facilities support services through the federal AbilityOne Program. Javier helps operations run smoothly on base by managing tool and equipment inventory, property management and vehicle maintenance. “I could not ask for a better job. Supporting a military base has helped create a smoother transition to civilian life” says Javier.  “Even though I am still learning, I always feel like a respected member of the team; everyone has an important part to contribute to PRIDE’s mission.”

With a steady job, Javier now aims to buy a house. His long-term plan is to attend college and study military history to become a teacher. Meanwhile, he would like to keep learning new skills through his job at PRIDE and expand his knowledge of his trade. “PRIDE has supported me with excellent training and motivated me to succeed,” says Javier. “It is a great company. Working here has had a very positive effect on my life.”

We thank you, Javier, for your service. PRIDE Industries is proud to support veterans such as Javier through their transition to civilian life while pursuing their careers and dreams.

We are Forever Grateful

PRIDE Industries Veterans Day

On Veterans Day, we honor all the men and women who have served in time of peace and war. Today, we salute you acknowledging your contributions and sacrifice to safeguard our freedom and liberties.

At PRIDE Industries, we understand that Veterans may have difficulty adjusting to civilian life. The skills developed in service to one’s country include leadership, teamwork, and adaptability to changing needs. These are qualities valued by any employer.  Still, military jobs do not always translate easily to the civilian workforce. Disability adds another hurdle. Our programs and partnerships help veterans reenter the workforce after their valiant service to our country. We help veterans find their place in the working world, providing the tools needed to ensure their success.

To all  who serve, we say “thank you.” We are forever grateful.

Saluting Those Who Serve: Christopher Telles

PRIDE Industries Veteran _ C. Telles 2015

‘Semper fidelis’ is a Latin phrase meaning “always faithful” or “always loyal.” Known as the Marine’s motto, it exemplifies a commitment to service and country. It also exemplifies Christopher Telles’ approach to life.

Christopher Telles, 29 served in the Marines from 2005 to 2013. He was deployed three times with tours in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Philippines. Constant physical training and multiple firefights left Christopher with physical and emotional scars. He was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury (TBI), post-traumatic stress, and degenerative back disease.

When he returned home, Christopher became a caregiver for his grandfather, a fellow Marine veteran who was like a father to him. He also enrolled in trade school for welding and started working part-time at a welding shop in hopes of launching a career. However, as his back condition worsened, Christopher had to quit his job because his employer would not accommodate his numerous medical appointments. Fortunately, his brother-in-law, Carlos Ramirez, connected Christopher to PRIDE Industries where he also worked.

Chris was hired as a general maintenance worker supporting PRIDE Industries’ contract at Fort Bliss. Under the AbilityOne program – a federal initiative to create jobs for individuals with significant disabilities – PRIDE Industries provides base wide facilities support to this critical Army installation.  Christoper began by working on the ranges but has since moved to the Appliance Shop, where he assists with welding and plumbing, following his passion. “Getting a job with PRIDE Industries was a match made in heaven,” said Christopher. PRIDE allows Christopher to see his doctor when necessary and has encouraged him to continue his trades training. “My back was really messed up and PRIDE has really shown support by providing accommodations for doctor’s appointments, as well as for attending welding school. I don’t know of any other company that would do this,” says Christopher.

Christopher pays it forward as an active volunteer in his community. Recently, he extended his support to the American Patriots at Shadow Mountain Lake – a nonprofit group that provides rehabilitation, therapy, job networking and training to veterans like himself. The nonprofit hosts events and barbecues for veterans on a private lake that had become terribly overgrown and in desperate need of maintenance. Sixty volunteers showed with shovels and rakes, but one showed up with a tractor: Christopher. In record time, he was able to clear roads and fill pot holes while the other volunteers focused on beautification projects.

Recognizing Christopher from another event, the nonprofit’s executive director sent a letter to PRIDE’s General Manager, Jeff Belles. “It wasn’t a surprise to see a person like him helping us out,” wrote Hector Hernandez. “Mr. Christopher Telles is someone that will do bigger and better things for your company. Please thank him for us. He left his tractor there for us to continue to use; only kind-hearted people with passion and purpose do this.” Thanks to Christopher’s generosity, the area was cleared, and the grand opening remained on schedule.

Christopher lives with his wife and three children. He hopes to be a role model to them, leading by example. “It is important to me to show my children that even though I have gone through a lot in the military and now have a disability, I can still work and be a productive member of the community,” says Christopher.

After he completes his welding apprenticeship, Christopher plans to continue his education and study renewable energy at the University so he can assist PRIDE Industries in achieving Fort Bliss’s sustainability goals. “Working for PRIDE doesn’t make me feel like I am limited by my disability,” says Christopher. “PRIDE gives me the tools to work while having a disability.”

Saluting Those Who Serve: Donald Kestner

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As an 88M-Transport Operator in the United States Army, Donald Kestner was responsible for transporting personnel and cargo, providing advanced mobility on and off the battlefield.  Donald served from 1994 to 2013; he was a squad leader and operations non-commissioned officer. He directed and trained troops for missions; he was deployed to Haiti in 1994 and five times to Iraq. He served with bravery, but not without injury – however invisible to others.

Donald went through PTSD counseling and enrolled in the Wounded Warrior Transition program while waiting for his medical board review decision.  Transitioning from the military to the civilian workforce can be a challenge for all veterans, but especially those with disabilities. Attending a job fair, he met PRIDE’s recruiter, Cynthia Baca. She mentioned that PRIDE was hiring for heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) technicians who were always in demand. Donald went directly to the Western Tech College booth and signed up for HVAC school.

Always good with his hands and engineering, Donald picked up the skills quickly. He attended HVAC school part-time until he completely separated from the military; he lived with his in-laws while he looked for steady employment. Donald took advantage of an externship partnership that PRIDE shares with the technical college to gain hands-on experience and complete his credit hours. He applied for the first opening he saw at PRIDE Industries after completing his coursework. Joining PRIDE’s team in April 2014 allowed him to move to his own home just three months later.

PRIDE Industries provides base wide facilities support services to Fort Bliss through the federal AbilityOne Program. In addition to employment, PRIDE provides accommodations, training and supports to its employees. Having a steady and good-paying job helps Donald cope with anxiety and relieves some of the symptoms of his post-traumatic stress. Since joining PRIDE, he has been promoted twice. He continues to develop his skills and wants to move up through the ranks to Lead Technician. Work and life are better now. “I am happy with my job,” says Donald. “I am grateful for PRIDE.”

Saluting Those Who Serve: Charles Green

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In the battlefield, when the United States Army needs advance information about the enemy, they call on the Scouts. This was Charles Green’s first job in the military during Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm. Acting as the commander’s eyes and ears on the battlefield, Scouts track and report enemy movements, and engage the enemy whenever necessary.  In all, Charles served 21 years and was deployed multiple times. In between deployments, he was stationed at Fort Bliss, where he works today for PRIDE Industries.

Charles retired from the military in 2011. His time in the service took a physical and mental toll. Like many veterans, he struggled with the transition from military to civilian life. “I was used to taking care of myself and being financially independent. This period was difficult to adjust to,” says Charles. He got a job with a company that supplies the military but was laid off after 18 months due to company restructuring. Charles decided to attend a trades college to earn his associate’s degree in heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC).  A classmate told him about PRIDE Industries’ facilities work at Fort Bliss. Charles applied for an externship to gain practical, hands-on experience. He excelled and was hired in October 2013 as a Material Trades Helper. Charles’ work ethic and talent stood out – he was promoted twice more within a year, first to General Maintenance Worker and then to an HVAC Tech II.

Charles takes pride in his career as an HVAC technician. He has found a welcome and comfortable place to work on the base, surrounded by soldiers and military personnel. “I love my job. I have never been with a company that provides the type of training and support that PRIDE provides,” says Charles. In a place as hot and cold as the Texas desert can get, Charles says: “It brings me great satisfaction when I can fix a soldier’s air conditioning or heating.”

PRIDE provides a helper for Charles due to his physical limitations. Training provides an opportunity for advancement and career growth. Charles appreciates the support:  “Other companies give you the service orders, and you are on your own.  PRIDE gives you an opportunity, despite your disability.”

Charles’ contributions have been recognized by both PRIDE staff and military customers on base. He greatly enjoys working on a military installation and the opportunity to continue to serve the troops. He is comfortable being around military members and can relate to them on their level.  He prides himself on knowing his Military Customs and Courtesies and is happy to use them still on a daily basis. “I love my job,” Charles says. “Being an HVAC Tech has changed my perspective and brings me great satisfaction.”

 

Adapting to Civilian Life

PRIDE Industries Veteran Shawn

Transitioning from a career in the military to the civilian workforce can be difficult. Veterans gain unique skills, experiences, and leadership abilities during their time in the military, but they often face unemployment and other service-related disabilities when transitioning.

Shawn Moore, 36, is a U.S. Army veteran who served in the infantry for six years. He was also a paratrooper and attended Ranger school. “I did a couple tours in Iraq and Kuwait,” says Shawn. Shawn suffered multiple concussions from mortar and live fire attacks; he was diagnosed with a Traumatic Brain Injury.

Shawn had little real work experience before joining the military. After his service, he had difficulty finding his place in civilian life. The specialized skills he gained while serving his country did not translate easily to civilian job descriptions. Shawn enrolled in college with a plan to become a pharmacist. After three years, the responsibilities of family and a desire to get back to work made him put the plan aside. “I got to the point where I was desperate; I needed to get a job,” says Shawn.

In 2012, Shawn connected to PRIDE Industries through veteran liaison, Frank Goehringer. Soon after, he began working as a materials trades handler on a contract providing facilities services to the Judicial Council of California. Within ten months, he was on a career track: “I worked hard, and I ended up being promoted to building maintenance technician,” says Shawn.

In his new role, Shawn works with a team of highly skilled tradesmen and engineers out of the Gordon D. Schaber Sacramento County Courthouse – one of 70 courts that PRIDE Industries maintains. “I have learned a lot about electricity, HVAC and motor exchanges – all while working with the community,” says Shawn.

Shawn gained more than specialized trade skills in his position; he found something missing from his military days. “There is a bond that you get when you are in the military; it is like a brotherhood. When you get out of the military, it is hard to find that. Since joining PRIDE, I have gotten that back.”

Although Shawn has excelled in his career at PRIDE, his journey has not been easy. When Shawn first joined PRIDE, he was full of jitters and apprehension. “I was worried about keeping the job because I had not had a job for a long time,” says Shawn. “It was tough getting out of the military.” Leaving the familiar for an unknown is never easy. “They helped me bring that person out. It is nice to know that I was more than I thought I was – in a good way.”

The job has not only helped him provide for his family, but it has allowed him to grow and regain confidence in his abilities and skills. Today, Shawn has set his sights on becoming a full-fledged engineer. “Working with these guys helped me to open up,” Shawn says. “They have also steered me back to school.”

His time in the military stays with him, even today. “To be honest, I have not completely adapted to civilian life. It is always something inside of you that you keep when you get out of the military,” says Shawn. But he has a message for other veterans: “Sometimes it is difficult to take that next step. I have many friends who are veterans with disabilities, and I have told them to call PRIDE. Give it a shot.”

Shawn’s next goal is to purchase his own home and send his children to college – including the new one that he and his wife, Bobby Jean are expecting this fall. “I want to make sure that my family is taken care of.”

As a military man, Shawn took care of his country. At PRIDE, we’re proud to provide a welcome space, training and opportunity for veterans like Shawn to work their way back to taking care of their own.

Click the video below to view Shawn’s Journey to PRIDE.