Junior Enlisted Program: David’s Story
Since joining Hire Heroes USA in June 2020, I have had the opportunity to work with hundreds of clients, learning each person’s unique stories and experiences at varying phases of their careers. However, when the chance to focus specifically on the junior enlisted population became available earlier this year, I knew this was where I needed to be.
I know I’m not the only one who experienced their first time on an airplane on the way to basic training. I enlisted into the U.S. Army as a private right after graduating from high school in 1998. Joining the Army meant a lot of first experiences, from leaving my family for the first time to learning a whole new way of life. Becoming a father at a young age only added to the mix; the challenge of raising a family on a junior enlisted budget was an experience in itself. Learning to think strategically, adapt, and make ends meet on a small salary drove me to further my education in finance and sustain my military career into retirement.
My initial job in the Army was a fire support specialist. My role was to identify enemy targets and call in artillery fire to destroy them. At the age of 22, I had the honor of leading soldiers into combat during the initial invasion of Iraq, kicking off the war that would become known as Operation Iraqi Freedom. While on a patrol during this deployment, we were injured when our vehicle was hit with a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG). One of my soldiers was airlifted out of the country due to his injuries; however, we were all aware of how blessed we were to have survived and be able to tell our story. Though we received Purple Hearts for this life-altering event, it was a pivotal moment in which I discovered I had another purpose – and that purpose is to coach and mentor people who had been in the same boots I walked in during my early years of service.
When I received orders to be an Army recruiter, I knew that was my chance to have an impact on someone’s life in the same way mine had been impacted. I loved knowing that I helped people make a positive, life-changing decision. Years later, I was asked to be the best man in the wedding of one of my early recruits – a perfect example of how important these young service members were to me. Later in my military career, I climbed the ranks and eventually retired from the service in 2020 as a senior noncommissioned officer and an accomplished mentor.
Hire Heroes USA has allowed me to continue my service to veterans and their families as a Transition Specialist in Hire Heroes USA’s Junior Enlisted Program. In this role, I spend the bulk of my working day coaching and mentoring junior enlisted service members and veterans. I’m also involved in my community through coaching youth sports as well as volunteering with various nonprofits, including serving on the board of directors for one of the organizations.
My combined life experiences and the challenges I faced along the way allow me to share with other veterans how to navigate this journey we call life.
David Williams is a Transition Specialist with Hire Heroes USA’s Junior Enlisted Program. If you’re interested in receiving free career support with Hire Heroes USA, click here to learn more.