Leading up to Labor Day, we're highlighting workers in California and sharing their story. Walter is our very first Faces of Labor post and you can learn more from Walter on his journey from military man to union man with IBEW Local 1245 below. Thanks, Walter!
I spent my time in the Army deploring communication networks, whether it was above the clouds on Germany’s mountaintops or underground in bunkers in Korea. I have over 21 years of military experience, which involved (among other things) running thousands of miles, just like Forest Gump.
The best highlight from my service was interacting and living with people from other cultures. I also enjoyed traveling, living & touring in the 10 foreign countries and five state- side locations the Army deployed me to.
My six years of service in the Army Reserve were more challenging than my 15 years of active duty. Both active duty and reserve military members work and train in a 24-hour environment; but when I was a reservist, I was also trying to balance a civilian job, which made my time in the Reserves a difficult challenge.
I retired from the Army Reserve in 2003 after six years. The day that the uniform came off was one of my greatest milestones. But I quickly learned that the non-traditional military bond formed in basic training and molded into me on a daily basis is almost impossible to emulate in civilian life. The unity of the military leaves you in seconds upon discharge.
I think the toughest part of returning to civilian life was overcoming the fear of the unknown and losing that guaranteed paycheck. As a civilian, you have immeasurable freedom; it’s enough to make a grown man cry.
One of the keys to my career success was taking any job interview I could find; I started interviewing six months prior to my active duty discharge, and I would talk with anyone that was doing any job that I thought I might want to do. I mastered the art of saving, resume writing and networking. I also found the Army Career Assistance Program (a mandatory military exit program) to be very useful.
Back in May of 97, while working my second week on my first civilian job as a non-union technician, I met an IBEW electrician. He told me about the military-style brotherhood at the IBEW and within three years, I got my first union job at Frontier Communications, thanks to the foundation laid for me that brother. Now, I’m approaching 15 years at Frontier, and I feel like my future has endless possibilities. I owe a debt of gratitude to the union activists before me that secured the living wage and benefits which have enabled me to see my dreams come true. Thank you IBEW 1245.
It was a long journey from military solider to union man, but living life is about starting new adventures. The advice I would give to vets transitioning back to civilian life would be to start before the battle begins, and always keep your eye on the prize.
Stay tuned for more Faces of Labor posts leading up to Labor Day!