CONCORD, MA – Project: Return To Work (R2W) Helps Wounded Warriors Find Jobs
Forty-one soldiers gathered January 07, 2009 at Hanscom Air Force Base for a Community Based Warrior Transition Unit (CBWTU). The Commander, Major Mark O’Clair, invited representatives from Project: Return to Work (R2W) to present information regarding R2W’s vocational rehabilitation services.
R2W is a non-profit organization providing a variety of free services to newly enabled Americans, including injured soldiers returning from Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere around the world. R2W has developed a unique system effectively blending advanced technologies with traditional evaluation, training, and job placement services. Unlike a traditional employment agency, R2W provides applicant-friendly on-line services balanced with the personal touch provided by experienced counselors who truly care about the wounded warriors. R2W was represented at the meeting by Braxton McCoy. McCoy knows first-hand the challenges and needs of wounded warriors. The clock stood still for McCoy on 6 January 2006 at precisely 0917 hours, when dozens of ball-bearings sprayed McCoy, several other soldiers, and a hundred plus Iraqis as the suicide bomber’s explosive vest detonated.
Sgt. McCoy was serving in Iraq with the US Army as part of a “Dog Squad,” an impromptu detail that deploys on a moment’s notice to handle various missions. On the final day of a four day mission to protect Marines at a facility for Iraqi Police recruits, Braxton, a former amateur bull riding cowboy from Utah, almost experienced his last day on earth. Thankfully Braxton survived, but it was McCoy’s last day on duty with his soldier brothers.
Sgt. McCoy was so close to the blast that he was launched sixty meters across a two lane road. McCoy said, “There were eighty-one holes in all,” fifty-seven in Sgt. McCoy’s body, the rest absorbed by his life-saving Kevlar vest and other gear. McCoy’s legs were “jello.” The months that followed were dedicated to a painful series of forty-eight surgeries to reconstruct McCoy’s mangled body, allowing him to overcome his near-fatal wounds to get “Back to work, back to life” (R2Ws slogan). Upon learning of McCoy’s experience and dramatic come-back, Rob Brazell, R2W’s President, was so inspired that he offered McCoy a job as an Employment Specialist…now a soldier helping soldiers.
McCoy began his talk to the group of warriors in transition at Concord with jokes and the “readers digest” version of his story. McCoy was originally attached to a Personal Security Detail (PSD) until a Colonel decided he didn’t need that level of protection and McCoy’s brief and near-fatal mission with the Dog Squad began. The ears of five or six soldiers in the audience immediately perked up, having also served in PSDs.
McCoy continued by explaining the numerous free services offered to help soldiers obtain meaningful employment despite their challenges. R2W’s applicants, with support from professional counselors, complete skill and interest evaluations to find the most suitable jobs for them. The clients are then linked with employers across the nation based upon the job-candidate matching process. If appropriate, government paid internships, or service learning opportunities, are also available to enable applicants up to three months of direct work experience with a real or simulated employer. R2W truly provides effective and vital services that help injured soldiers successfully and quickly transition back to work and back to life!
Following the meeting, McCoy met with the soldiers individually. McCoy customizes his approach to suit each soldier’s specific needs. For example, a Master Sergeant had applied for a job with the VA, who rejected him indicating that although he had been in a PSD for a year and then designated the Non-Commissioned Officer In Charge (NCOIC) of the defense system for a Forward Operating Base (FOB), he was not qualified for the VA’s security job opening. McCoy is helping that soldier translate his military experience (MOS) into terms non-military employers understand, so he will get a second chance at the job.
In all, thirty-seven of the soldiers attending that day signed up for R2W’s services. Jean McIntosh, another one of R2W’s Employment Specialists, is currently working with these soldiers to discuss their specific situations and enable them to understand and utilize the options that best suit their career goals. Rob Brazell, Founder and President of R2W said, “I’m very pleased the partnership with the Northeast CBWTU came together last year, since we already serve soldiers attached to CBWTUs in both Utah and Florida. In the future, we plan to reach even more warriors in transition by partnering with other organizations across the nation.”