In honor of Veterans Day, we’d like to take the time to highlight some of our own veterans. Here are some insights from Justin on being a veteran:
Q: What influenced you to serve our country?
My father and stepfather both served 20+ years in the Air Force. Growing up, joining the military was always the plan. In high school, I became more aware of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and because even in JRTOC you couldn’t participate your senior year if you were LGBTQIA+, so I did not join. Further along, after I had established my degree and career, DADT was lifted. I was in a recruiter’s office the next day to join the Air Force Reserve so I could both serve and maintain my career. That’s how I became a Combat Crew Communications Specialist.
Q: What was your proudest moment during your service?
While I was deployed to Al Udeid Air Base, I found out that they had a local JAG office that ran the only Volunteer Income Tax Assistance site in a deployed location. The base supported 11,000 troops and the VITA coordinator was being sent home last minute. My civilian company created the tax software they were using and I had previously run a VITA site before when I was a part of AmeriCorps. I volunteered and aided the JAG office in getting spun up and trained over 30 tax preparers for that season. My original deployment was meant to be 2 months, but got extended to 6, which allowed me to cover that entire tax season. In total, we were able to bring back $450k back to our troops, not including the savings of having their tax returns filed for free.
Q: Looking back on your service, what is the first thing that comes to mind?
The first thing that comes to mind is longing. There’s a nostalgia factor and a desire to return. There’s a part of you that never wants to leave. The people you get to know and work with are always there for you and those friendships last for life and pickup right where they left off even if it’s been years.
Q: During your service, who was/were your biggest influence(s)?
CMSgt Richard Dawson was the Functional Area Manager for my career field. By the time I had got out, he had 16 deployments under his belt. He could lead and take ownership of any project and grow his people better than any leader I’ve ever seen.
Q: What’s something you want people to know about veterans that they might not know or realize?
The letters you send us overseas are always appreciated. There are a lot of times that we try our best to ensure a letter of thanks is sent back. When we are unable to, it stays with us. But please know we were/are thankful.
Q: What does being a veteran mean to you?
Being a veteran means I am privileged to have had the experience to develop a form of camaraderie unseen anywhere else. That style of support system is what allows us to serve in the way we do.
Q: Overall, how do you think your service changed you?
Service trains you to be vulnerable. It allows you to lean forward in situations where you are not only uncomfortable, but takes you further to have confidence in leading when many factors are unknown. I was a much more anxious person before joining and I would say that serving allowed me to develop the tools necessary to cope with and mitigate those issues.
Q: How did Fusion help you transition into a civilian career?
I am a brand new employee, but already I can see the network of support that Fusion provides not only for its veterans, but also for all of its employees.