Veteran’s Salute – Vernon Alcorn

While working on an Idaho ranch as a young adult, Vernon Alcorn decided he wanted a larger purpose in life. In 1994, he and a friend both decided to apply to the Idaho National Guard.

“The training was mentally challenging,” said Vernon. “However, I adjusted well and was excited to make the military my career.” After two years in the National Guard, he enlisted in the US Army as part of the 46th Engineer Battalion.

Vernon served 21 years in the Army, advancing from a Private E1 to First Sergeant E8. In 1998, he was sent to his first overseas deployment to Nicaragua for a humanitarian mission. Fast forward to 2003 – Vernon was part of the first army troops sent over for Operation Iraqi Freedom. He later went again for combat operations in 2008 – 2009, as well as to South Korea in 2013 for an operations support position and to a final deployment in Afghanistan in 2014.

Serving in the military gave Vernon an opportunity to become a leader and an effective team builder. His dedication and bravery won him many awards, including two bronze stars. “My proudest moment serving was the day I became a First Sergeant in Afghanistan,” said Vernon. “With this position came the responsibility of commanding 294 soldiers – the height of my career.”

After returning home from Afghanistan, Vernon was on track to become a Sergeant Major but decided to retire in 2015 while stationed in Fort Polk, LA. “I enjoyed my time in the Army and the camaraderie I had with fellow soldiers. However, as my kids got older, I wanted to spend more time with my family.”

Starting a new career at any time presents challenges; this is often compounded when applying military skills to civilian positions. Like many veterans, Vernon struggled with making the career transition between soldier and civilian. “I applied to several jobs with very little luck. Most interviews went downhill after I had mentioned I was in the military. I went from a management position to an entry-level job to help support my family.”

Fortunately, Vernon kept searching for better opportunities and applied for a Quality Control Assistant Manager position at PRIDE Industries’ Fort Polk contract.

“From the start of my interview, I knew that this company was different. My prior work in the military was viewed as a positive aspect rather than something that I needed to hide,” said Vernon. He was hired in 2016 and shortly afterward was promoted to the Forward Operating Base/Range Facilities Manager.

“My job at PRIDE gives me purpose as a civilian,” says Vernon. “The Army never leaves you, and I enjoy being able to support the training on Fort Polk in a civilian capacity. It makes a positive impact on my life being able to work with people with disabilities and see their accomplishments. One of my children has a disability, and I know how important it is to have opportunities to enter meaningful careers with room for advancement.”

In his tenure at PRIDE, Vernon has become a valued team member. His advice for other veterans transitioning from the military is “Be prepared for change – I worked my way to the top and had to start all over again. Understand that a lot of companies won’t know what your job role is or your skills. Go in with an open mind.”

Veteran’s Salute – Kathryn Strawder

“After graduating high school, I had little experience but lots of ambition.” Kathryn (Kathy) Strawder enlisted in the U.S. Army in June 1995 to start a meaningful career with potential. “I enrolled as a Private, the lowest rank possible. The transition was rough; I felt like I made a huge mistake. However, the rigorous training was necessary to build us up.”

After Basic and Advanced Individual Training AIT training, Kathy joined the 17th Signal Battalion in Kitzingen, Germany. Throughout her career, she was stationed in Germany, Fort Hood, Korea, and Fort Bliss, including a deployment to Bosnia for a peacekeeping mission.

“In Bosnia, we dressed in full battle rattle (combat uniform). It was tough for my team, but we were always supportive and helped each other to get through the mission. I gratefully landed back in Germany after the deployment was over.”

With determination and drive, Kathy soon rose above the challenges. “When I was a young Specialist, I attended school to become a Non-Commissioned Officer. I received three awards, including the Commandant’s List (Honors Award), Iron Soldier, and Class A. After graduation, some female officers told me how proud they were of me for representing women in the force. I then went back to my unit and won Soldier of the Month.”

Kathy was promoted to Sergeant and enrolled in the Green to Gold Educational Program to attend St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, eventually rising to the rank of Captain. “I never forget that every contribution, no matter how small, contributed to the success of our team. The Army taught me important leadership skills including mentoring, resiliency, patience, and focus.”

“To this day, I’m proud to have served for over a decade in active duty and the Army Reserves. I wouldn’t trade it for anything!”

Kathy left the Army in 2009 to concentrate on her family. “The first six months after leaving were the most challenging – I felt like I had lost my identity. There were so many new things I had to get used to, including signing up for benefits and even picking out work clothes.”

“I still miss the Army, but I love the life that I have now. My advice to other veterans adjusting to civilian life is to have a plan, be open to new ideas and experiences and most importantly don’t give up.”

Kathy worked as a civilian within the military field until she was hired in 2014 at PRIDE Industries’ Fort Bliss  contract as Human Resources Director – helping manage employee relations for a small city of facilities experts that keep the base operational.

“It’s just a great opportunity to be part of this wonderful company,” says Kathy. “I can’t say enough how much I love my job. My son has Autism, and I can only imagine what the parents who started this company had in mind when they envisioned something better for their children. Just like the Army, I believe in PRIDE’s mission!”

Veteran’s Salute – David Daniel

“My dad served in the military for 30 years. He inspired me to join as well.” David Daniel served in the United States Air Force from 1984 to 2012, enlisting shortly after graduating high school.

“My transition to military life was slightly humorous. At basic training, you follow a strict regimen: when to get up, go to sleep, make your bed, fold your clothes and hang your uniforms,” said David. “Coming from a military family, I thought this was normal. I guess this helped me make squad leader!”

After his first overseas assignment to Guam, David was sent to Patrick AFB in Florida in 1990. Shortly afterward, he was sent to Kuwait for the Gulf War. “It was a surreal experience,” said David. “I packed up and said goodbye to my friends and family, and still couldn’t believe I was leaving.”

David served multiple tours throughout his time in the Air Force, including Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. “You realize that you are much more capable than you thought. I understood this especially during my deployment to Kandahar, Afghanistan; when my team was attacked.”

Through his dedication and exemplary work, David moved from Airman Basic (E-1) in 1984 to Chief Master Sergeant (E-9) in 2012. The Air Force led him all over the world including the Middle East, South America, East Asia and Europe.

Throughout his career, David has completed many roles in civil engineering, helping keep various bases safely running through times of conflict and peace. His bravery also earned him several awards and decorations, including the Bronze Star.

“I went to 19 countries – and loved them all,” said David. “However, my most memorable moment was a 2010 humanitarian deployment to Suriname. I was asked to lead a RED HORSE team (Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineers) to build medical clinics and schools. It was an incredible experience to create a positive impact.”

At the end of his career, David served as the Superintendent for the 87th Mission Support Group, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey – acting as the principal advisor to the Commander on all enlistment issues for 3,911 personnel.

Although he had enjoyed serving in the military, David looked forward to a new beginning. “I officially retired on November 1st, 2012, serving a total 28 years, ten months and 14 days,” said David.

“I enjoyed my career, but it was the right time to end. Thankfully, PRIDE Industries offered me a position as the Operations Manager at the Ft. Bliss contract.”

Working in a familiar environment helped make his military transition easier. “My transition went rather smoothly,” explained David. “I moved from Joint Base Maguire-Dix-Lakehurst (JB-MDL), NJ to Ft. Bliss, TX and took off the uniform. I was also fortunate to have my Dad’s advice to know what to expect.”

In 2015, David joined PRIDE’s Western Currency Facility contract as the General Manager. He currently manages a team of 50 people, including those with disabilities and veterans. “I love that PRIDE gives people opportunities and confidence through employment.”

“Working for PRIDE has positively impacted my life, and I enjoy the ability to build teams who accomplish more than they ever imagined.”

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.

In Honor of Our Fallen Heroes

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“And I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free. And I won’t forget the men who died, who gave that right to me.” ~Lee Greenwood

On Monday, May 30th – Memorial Day – we pause and remember the brave women and men who have made the ultimate sacrifice while protecting our freedom.

At PRIDE Industries, we create jobs for people with disabilities. Our mission includes veterans who return with physical, emotional, and mental scars which create obstacles to employment and self-sufficiency. We also work to provide an opportunity for those who simply have difficulty rejoining the workforce. On this Memorial Day, we welcome our returning veterans and honor our fallen heroes.

Happy Memorial Day to all.

Memorial Day 2015

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On Memorial Day, we honor the men and women who have died while serving in the United States military.

PRIDE Industries’ mission is to create jobs for people with disabilities – including veterans. We serve individuals who return with physical, emotional, and mental health disabilities that create obstacles to employment and self-sufficiency.  At PRIDE, we welcome our returning veterans.  This Memorial Day, we honor our fallen heroes, pausing for a moment to consider the heroic sacrifice made by brave women and men who protect the rights and liberties we enjoy.

Happy Memorial Day to all.