Upon graduating high school, Brian, of Coram knew that he wanted to serve his country and enlist in the U.S. Army. In 2006, at the age of 17, he joined as an infantryman on the front lines in the war against terror. While enlisted, he felt a deep sense of purpose, choosing to remain in Infantry instead of transferring to other jobs like many others do.
“Some guys in the army do infantry, and then transition to other jobs like welding, or mechanics. Then, once you get out, you have years of specialized training in a field under your belt,” Brian explained. “For me, I joined to be an infantryman, to serve where it counts, on the front lines. I spent seven years of my life doing just that, including multiple tours overseas. I am proud of that, but when you get out…. You feel useless and lost.”
Brian left the Army in 2013, and like many veterans, found it difficult to find employment. Money got tight, he was paying bills with his credit card, and he knew something needed to change. Part-time work was easier to find, and he was lucky to have a support system in his parents, but the bills, and his stress level, kept climbing.
After being laid-off from a full-time position at a gas and electric company that closed, Brian found United Way of Long Island’s VetsBuild program and immediately enrolled. “I took every bit of training that VetsBuild offered – green home energy audit training, construction training, IT training, and GasPro training,” Brian said. It was the training with GasPro that kick-started Brian’s new career path.
Through the connections he made in VetsBuild, Brian was hired to repair air conditioning and natural gas units for two years, then in 2017, he was hired by Meenan as a service technician. He’s thriving, learning new skills and growing a successful career.
“I would tell other veterans to just not give up – I struggled, we all struggle,” explained Brian. “When you’re in the military, you know your job is important, but when you become a civilian, you get home and can’t find a purpose. I’ve met a number of veterans who were in a worse place than me, and I tell them about VetsBuild. United Way makes it so easy to join, and at least you’re trying something – something to get you out of the hole that you’re in – a way to learn a skill and find a career.”
For Brian, VetsBuild was the start of a new life, one filled with purpose and meaning. He reflected, “I would still be struggling, at an unfulfilling job, if it weren’t for VetsBuild.”