Heroes Among Us: Patrick

Patrick Cunningham refuses to call himself a hero. For him, it’s a title reserved for the other service members who served alongside him for 20 years, and anyone who goes above and beyond to provide for others before themselves. Patrick simply wants to pay it forward and avoid the recognition, especially now that he’s successfully completed his transition from the United States Army.

Patrick Cunningham in Afghanistan in 2012.

While he may not call himself a hero, he still embodies the same sense of service and courage that guided his entire military career.

“I officially joined the Army on Sept. 5, 2001, so a few days before 9/11,” Patrick said. “My mother told me that I didn’t have to go. She tells me this every time on my Army anniversary. The response that I gave back was  ‘If I’m not willing to fight for my country, who will?'”

Patrick’s commitment to that mission continued for more than 20 years. During that time, he completed five deployments in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. However, when it was time for him to trade in his boots for a suit and tie this year, Patrick didn’t have a resume or one-on-one support as he prepared to move into the civilian workforce.

“I don’t think they really prepared me to get out, that’s what all of these other organizations did for me,” Patrick explained. “If I had to do it all by myself, I probably wouldn’t be in the same position that I’m in today.” 

A friend referred him to Hire Heroes USA, as he was getting ready to transition from the military. That proved to be a turning point in his career search.

“It allowed me to actually stay focused on what was important during my transition at that time , because it was a lot. It can be easy to be overwhelmed.”

For Patrick, it meant one-on-one support from his dedicated Transition Specialist. She worked with him to build a resume that explained his accomplishments and responsibilities in the armed forces in a measurable and easy-to-understand way. Once he had that document, everything changed.

Patrick and his family.

“Once I started sending it to people, I started getting phone calls back,” Patrick said. “Talking to people, for me, has always been easy. But it’s getting to that conversation that’s hard.”

True to his word, once that first door opened, Patrick took full advantage. One of those conversations eventually led him to secure a 12-week fellowship, followed by an offer for a full-time position as a Human Resources Specialist with with SimulTV in August.

“Being a non-commissioned officer in the Army was about helping people, it seemed like a pretty easy transition to go into Human Resources because really that’s what you’re doing- is trying to help the employees of a company. That was a natural fit, allowing me to continue to help people and to grow a career in the civilian world.”

Finding a rewarding career has provided a new sense of purpose, continuing to build on the momentum that the Army gave him for two decades. As his fellow soldiers prepare to leave the armed forces, Patrick wants every single one to know about the help that Hire Heroes USA offers to service members, veterans and military spouses.

“I would recommend this program to anybody. If you’re getting out of the Army after three years or after 30, the professionals here will definitely help you.”

This Veterans Day, Hire Heroes USA is honoring the Heroes Among Us: the service members, veterans and military spouses who model service over self every day. This year, give the gift of empowerment and professional success to heroes like Patrick.

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