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.”

PRIDE Industries’ Employment Services Internship Program

PRIDE’S INTERNSHIP PROGRAM

Beginning a new career or re-entering the workforce is difficult for anyone. Individuals with disabilities, including veterans, often have an even harder time finding employment – and not for a lack of desire or willingness to work.

People with disabilities face unemployment at a rate four times greater than the general population. Veterans with disabilities often face a wide range of challenges, including translating military service skills into the civilian workplace.

PRIDE Industries’ Employment Services Internship Program provides a path for people with disabilities, including veterans to get their foot in the door or a fresh start in a new career. As a nonprofit social enterprise, PRIDE is nationally recognized for its expertise in empowering people to attain meaningful employment and increased independence despite the challenges they face. PRIDE serves individuals with a range of disabilities, including physical disabilities, sensory impairments, developmental and intellectual disabilities, and mental illness.

PRIDE’s internship program offers up to 250 hours of paid work experience within PRIDE or with a community employer. Through the internship, individuals get hands-on experience and gain soft skills while working in a safe and supportive environment. For people with little to no work experience, it provides a good resume builder.

In 2014, PRIDE provided 50 paid internship totaling more than 6,000 hours. The internship program is funded by generous donations made to PRIDE Industries Foundation. Many interns have achieved full-time employment. Following are a few stories of interns who successfully made the transition from intern to full-time employee.

SEAN ARTHUR

PRIDE Industries_Internship program_ SeanSean served in the Marine Corps from 2012 – 2014 as an Infantry Assaultman. While serving, Sean took friendly fire from a rocket launcher. “I now suffer from PTSD, partial hearing loss, two herniated discs in my lower back and a piece of metal in my knee,” says Sean.

When he returned home and healed, Sean started looking for employment. For seven months, Sean searched for opportunities. Despite his sacrifice for our country, Sean found it impossible to get a foot in the door to begin a new career.

His luck changed when he met with Frank Goehringer, PRIDE’s Veterans Liaison and Chris Chau, Referral Specialist. “They showed me all the opportunities that PRIDE had to offer with their internship program, and told me about their mission of hiring veterans and people with disabilities,” says Sean.

In September 2014, Sean began his paid internship with PRIDE’s manufacturing department. By December 2014, Sean was hired as a full-time production trainer at PRIDE Industries.

BARBARA BORIS

PRIDE Industries_Internship program_ BarbaraDisability can affect anyone at any time through illness or injury. In 2011, Barbara was injured on the job. Her employer refused to make accommodations for her disability and let her go.

Determined to find a new career, Barbara reached out to the Department of Rehabilitation. While attending a job club session, Barbara connected with Debbie Tomlinson, a job developer at PRIDE Industries.

Debbie and Barbara worked on improving her resume, cover letter and practiced interviewing skills while helping with the job search. Barbara’s enthusiasm for helping others was hard to miss; Debbie knew she would be a great fit at PRIDE. Debbie arranged an interview for a paid clerical internship.

In July 2014, Barbara began working at PRIDE as an intern. A few months later, she was hired as a permanent employee. As a Clerical Assistant, Barbara provides support to PRIDE’s Integrated Facilities Services business operations department.

JOSHUA BEST

PRIDE Industries_Internship program_ JoshuaIn 2013, Joshua graduated from college with a degree in computer information systems. Many college graduates have a difficult time finding that first job. Josh’s efforts were further complicated by the fact that he is Autistic.

Eager to find opportunity, Josh connected with the local Department of Rehabilitation and they referred him to PRIDE Industries. Soon after, Josh began working with PRIDE’s Employment Services. A job developer, and coach assisted Josh with interview training and job skills development.

After a few months of searching, Josh landed a paid internship with PRIDE’s IT department. “It was awesome!” says Josh. He became part of PRIDE’s technical support center.

Hard work and dedication paid off; recently Joshua became a permanent full-time PRIDE Industries employee in the IT department.

For more about Joshua’s Journey to PRIDE, click here.

HOW TO GET REFERRED

Individuals seeking services are encouraged to visit PRIDE’s website at prideindustries.com/people/how-to-get-referred. To assist parents, caregivers and individuals seeking supports and services, PRIDE has a dedicated referral specialist with vast knowledge of social services, our partners and of course, PRIDE.

Our specialist also coordinates PRIDE’s internship program referrals. So far this year, she has helped 17 individuals gain paid internships.

For more information or referrals to PRIDE’s internship program, please email our Referral Program Coordinator at referrals@prideindustries.com.

Saluting Those Who Serve

Each November, our nation sets aside a day to collectively honor and recognize those that serve – past and present – to protect our freedom. To all veterans we say “thank you.” Your many personal and professional sacrifices help to ensure the liberties we all enjoy. We are forever grateful.

PRIDE Industries’ programs and partnerships help veterans re-enter the workforce with honor, dignity and understanding. Our contracts on military bases provide a welcome and familiar environment for veterans where they can enhance their skills and advance their careers while serving their fellow soldiers.

PRIDE Profile: William A. Green

Veterans Day William G

William A. Green IV was born in Queens, New York and raised in McDonald, Pennsylvania. He lost his father at age 5 and his mother at age 16. He took care of himself while finishing high school and then joined the service. He enlisted in the Army in March 1983 as a Power Generation Equipment Repairer. “The Army was my family and every soldier was my brother and sister,” says William “You become so tight-knit and rely on each other- especially when deployed.”

William attended Basic Combat Training at Fort Knox, Kentucky and Advanced and Individual Training at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. He served in a variety of key leadership positions with his last being as the U. S. Army Garrison Command Sergeant Major, Fort Bliss, Texas. He was injured in Iraq twice and received two Bronze Stars. “Whether it’s a peace mission or combat, the military molds you and changes you forever. It makes you appreciate life and the things you have. Possessions come and go but experiences with people are what life is truly about.”

William retired from the Army in October, 2011 when he joined PRIDE Industries. After being in the Army for 30 years, he was a little apprehensive about his future.

“I spent my entire military career helping people and wanted to continue that when I got out of the service,” says William. “I didn’t just want an easy job; I wanted something that would continue to challenge me and make me grow as a person. I found that job with PRIDE Industries.”

Working at Fort Bliss Texas allowed William to continue to serve his soldiers – as customers and fellow employees. With almost 500 PRIDE employees at Fort Bliss, 87 are veterans. “The work we do together is amazing,” says William. “With over 1.1 million acres of land and 25 million square feet of building space, we do everything from grounds maintenance to electrical, plumbing, carpentry, and HVAC. In essence, we are taking care of a small city.”

William wears two hats at PRIDE: Assistant General Manager and HR Director. His experience as Garrison Command Sergeant helps PRIDE to serve our customer better. His leadership and dedication support our employees as an advocate and mentor.

“I’m glad to be a part of the PRIDE team,” says William. “We have taken the lead in recognizing and helping our veterans transition from military to civilian life. In the military, I had a great family with my fellow soldiers. Now I have a great new family with PRIDE!”

Below is a video of the 2013 AbilityOne Honor Roll for Veterans Award Winner Andrew Weissenberger, a PRIDE Industries employee at our Fort Rucker contract.

Stephen’s Story

Escuela Militar

Stephen Williams is a service disabled veteran that served in the US Army from 1991-1993. Originally from West Virginia, Stephen settled down in Louisiana after completing his last station of duty at Fort Polk.

After leaving the military, Stephen attempted to find a full-time position with various construction companies. Despite his motivation and eagerness to work, he found it challenging to obtain long-term employment since none of the companies he worked for would provide accommodations for his disability. Stephen had been injured during his military service, and now has difficulty walking and standing for a long time.

Determined to reach his goal and find an employer that would not view his disability as an obstacle, Stephen turned to Louisiana Rehabilitation Services for help; they referred him to PRIDE Industries. Stephen became a PRIDE employee at Fort Polk in October 2010.

Stephen first began as a Maintenance Trades Helper in the HVAC shop. Due to his hard work and motivation, he was promoted to a General Maintenance Worker (GMW). His current duties include maintaining and repairing AC and heating units, replacing filters and exhaust fans, and responding to various work orders called in by military personnel at Fort Polk. Stephen attends to his work with great enthusiasm. According to PRIDE job coach Jaccara Sandanski, he has received several positive comments from military personnel on the quality of his work and reliable punctuality.

Stephen enjoys his job and especially feels proud that he gets to contribute to the well-being of the soldiers on base. Stephen says, “When I was in the military, everybody worked hard for us. I feel that I have a duty to pay it back.” He appreciates that his fellow PRIDE employees also share the same attitude and provide great service to the troops at Fort Polk every day. “That’s why we are here, to be supportive for our soldiers.”

To help our employees with disabilities overcome challenges, PRIDE provides accommodations, job coaching, and counseling. To accommodate his disability, PRIDE installed a step ladder on Stephen’s work truck, which makes it easier for him to drive around base to complete service orders. He also receives support from PRIDE’s rehabilitation counselor and job coach, Sonja Matthews and Jaccara Sandanski. According to Sonja, “Stephen took a proactive role in identifying his disability related challenges at work, and successfully overcame these obstacles with a few modifications made to his vehicle.” This type of support system has helped our employees with disabilities thrive and reach their full potential; or, as Stephen puts it, “Prove to myself that I could do anything that anyone else can.”

Stephen is looking to his future now. In order to advance his career skills, he has taken the NCCER (National Center for Construction Education and Research) core course available to PRIDE employees at Fort Polk. NCCER creates curriculum and assists in program development to foster construction training. Training is tailored to our employees with disabilities employing a variety of techniques including visual aids and field trips. Stephen desires to use this training to further his career aspirations; his new goal is to be promoted from a GMW to Boiler Tender when a position becomes available.

Now that Stephen is on a successful career path, his next personal goal is to purchase a home for his family which includes two children, a nephew, and a grandchild. According to Stephen “Life is short; strive for all of your goals to the best of your ability. Never settle!”

Stephen’s story is another example of how people with disabilities can thrive in the workplace with proper accommodation and supports.

Patrick’s Story

USNS Mercy _Edited

My Story

I have been a Laborer for FOSSAC, San Diego, since 2008. Prior to joining PRIDE Industries, I had a career as an Aircraft Electrician that spanned over 30 years. I started my career as an Avionics Mechanic with the United States Army and then became a Civilian employee working for the Army. My work took me to Germany, North Carolina, Washington and many points in between.

Then I was stricken with a condition that deteriorated my eyesight and led to my becoming diagnosed as legally blind. When I first reported to PRIDE Industries for work in early 2008, I was determined not to be a weak link in the human chain. I knew I had found a supportive environment where I could make a living and have a sense of self-reliance. If I can work, I believe almost anyone who is motivated, can work as well.

Since my work with PRIDE involves working on Navy ships and submarines, my former career prepared me well to understand the importance of providing great service to the military. I also feel reconnected to a world that I missed when I initially had to sever ties due to my disability.

Thank you for allowing me to share my success story with everyone!

Best,
Patrick Powell

Today We Honor You

American Heroes II

Veterans Day pays tribute to all veterans giving thanks to those who have served, are serving, or will serve our country honorably during war or peace time.

All of us at PRIDE Industries share a deep admiration and appreciation for the women and men who commit themselves to service for our county. Today we honor you.

To all PRIDE’s veterans, we thank you and we salute you.

Moving Disability Employment to the Forefront

This week, Delaware Governor Jack Markell was named Chair of the National Governors Association (NGA). The Governor announced that during his year-long term, his Chair’s initiative will be increasing employment among individuals with disabilities. He will encourage state governments to join with public and private sector employers to develop and build out a blueprint for the hiring, retention and promotion of individuals with disabilities in order to make a meaningful difference.

According to the Department of Labor, only 17.8 percent of Americans with disabilities were employed in 2011 – compared to 63.8 percent of those with no disability. Whether an individual is born with a disability, or acquires one later in life, individuals with disabilities have much to contribute and represent a large, qualified, and untapped workforce.  We should not forget that these statistics also include veterans with disabilities and wounded warriors – who are owed a debt of gratitude and support for their honorable service and sacrifice.

Employing individuals with disabilities makes more than good social sense. It makes good economic sense – as previously unemployed individuals move from consumers of social services to become contributing members of their communities. For more information, please visit: http://statesideassoc.wordpress.com/

Paying Tribute on Memorial Day

Who kept the faith and fought the fight;
The glory theirs, the duty ours.
~Wallace Bruce

On Memorial Day we remember all who died in service to their country. While the day is marked with celebrations, its true meaning should not be forgotten.  We ask that everyone pause for a moment and consider the courage and sacrifice required to put oneself in harm’s way to protect the rights and liberties of others. This Memorial Day we honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice.  But our duty does not end there.

At PRIDE Industries, we create jobs for people with disabilities. An important part of our mission is serving those who have served; individuals who return with physical, emotional and mental scars which create obstacles to independence and self-sufficiency. We also work to provide opportunity for those who have served and simply have difficulty rejoining the workforce. We welcome our returning veterans, and this Memorial Day weekend, we honor our fallen heroes.

We encourage our employees, friends and supporters to use this space to share their own special remembrances, paying tribute to those who ‘kept the faith and fought the fight.’ Happy Memorial Day to all.

A Veteran’s New Path with PRIDE Industries

PRIDE Employee

Michael Stone, PRIDE Industries Carpenter Technician, JB MDL, NJ

Michael Stone served 4 years active duty in the Marine Corps and an additional 4 years in the Reserves, completing a tour of Iraq during Operation Desert Storm. He enlisted shortly after high school graduation, wanting to serve his country and accomplish life goals utilizing skills he knew he would gain in service.  After leaving the military, he encountered challenges related to his new-found disabilities, and difficulties adjusting to civilian life.

An attempt at self-employment was unsuccessful; he remained unemployed for several frustrating years. In 2008 he was injured, with no health insurance, no job, and little hope. VA case management personnel connected him to the VA system and services. Soon after, he attended a job fair where he was connected to PRIDE Industries, providing base facilities support services at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst (JB MDL) under the AbilityOne program.

Michael began working with PRIDE Industries at JB MDL in June of 2010 as a General Maintenance Worker.  After six months, he was promoted to a Carpenter Technician position. Michael is grateful for the chance to return to the work he once was able to do, and to have to ability to support his family again. He utilizes the resources of the on-site PRIDE Rehabilitation office, continuing to work closely with a Counselor and the Job Coach.

For Michael, working on the military base “provides a sense of normalcy.” Adjusting to life outside of the military continues to be a “work in progress,” but Michael believes his work with PRIDE helps him. He is participating in successful work experiences every day, and even helping to support others in learning the carpentry trade.

Through his experiences at PRIDE Industries, Michael has regained confidence in his own abilities. Michael feels that PRIDE helps us all to “recognize our compassionate side, as we learn to recognize our differences and respect our abilities, not see people’s disabilities.” Working at PRIDE at JB MDL, an AbilityOne contract, helps Michael to support his family, continue to focus on his abilities, and to be a part of a team who values his skills.

Michael is planning the next steps in his career, considering returning to school to learn more about counseling and social work. He has a strong desire to share his experience and utilize what he has learned to help other veterans. He is currently working to establish a volunteer position with Tip of the Arrow, a volunteer organization focused on helping veterans successfully transition to civilian work life. Michael would like to serve as a support person to Veterans returning from active duty, who are rejoining the civilian job force.