Both my dad and grandfather served in the United States Air Force, and I felt the drive to join the military to uphold family tradition and serve my country. Not satisfied to completely follow in their footsteps, I rebelled a little by joining the United States Marine Corps. During my enlistment process, the recruiter discovered that I played the saxophone and encouraged me to audition for the Marine Corps Band. I was accepted, and spent the majority of my eight years of service as a musician. I was fortunate to visit multiple countries throughout the Asia-Pacific region, Europe and the Middle East.
There is a lot more to being a musician than ceremonies, parades and concerts. We were responsible for scheduling all of our travel, coordinating logistics and other administrative functions to support 50 band members. This was in addition to our regular Marine Corps duties, like physical training and marksmanship. My first major leadership role was as a platoon sergeant in charge of over 30 Marines. At the age of 21, I quickly learned that the trust and respect of my team was an earned privilege, independent of seniority or gender. Later, I progressed to other management roles in administration, operations and training. I also spent one year managing a marksmanship training unit, while stationed in Okinawa, Japan. Looking back, it was great preparation for success in civilian employment. Near the end of my second enlistment, I began to consider my future plans and long term goals. Going to college was a priority, so in 2006 I left the Marine Corps.
Sgt Sanchez marching at the Pahrump Fall Festival in Pahrump, NV, August 2002.
Though my time with the Marines ended, my commitment to service continued. I still wanted to work with military members and began an education directed towards physical therapy. The Iraq War had been going on for more than three years and many of my peers and friends were coming home with life-altering injuries. While completing my lower division courses at Grossmont College, I also helped veterans and their families gain access to education benefits, as a Veterans Affairs work-study. After collaborating with teams from other colleges, we noticed a lack of support services available. During this same period, the Student Veterans of America (SVA) had officially incorporated as a nonprofit to provide programs and support at campuses nationwide. Together, we founded our college’s Student Veteran Organization (SVO) chapter, a nonprofit organization under the SVA. In 2009, I transferred to the University of California San Diego (UCSD), where I continued my involvement with their SVO chapter as an event coordinator.
I graduated in 2012 and sought employment that would still fulfill my passion to serve. I stumbled across Hire Heroes USA during some online research and was surprised to find that their website featured a client photo of an acquaintance of mine. That personal connection was all I needed to reach out to Hire Heroes USA and register for their services. A veteran transition specialist worked with me on self-marketing and updating my resume. She had mentioned that Hire Heroes USA would soon be in San Diego to conduct a Warrior Transition Workshop, as well as look for office space. I asked if they were hiring, and within two weeks, had interviews with their Chief Programs Officer and Chief Operating Officer.
Because of my own experience and struggle transitioning out of the Marines, combined with my educational success, I believed I would be a strong mentor and resource for veterans facing similar challenges. Before finding this opportunity, I was planning to settle for an administrative job until I could attend graduate school, but this position really excited me. I was so happy to learn I had been hired! Although I adjusted my pursuit from physical therapy to combating veteran unemployment, I remain committed to serving veterans. I am now pursuing my Master’s degree in Public Administration at the University of Washington, with the goal of positively affecting veteran’s issues on a higher level.
Being able to continue my service to veterans and build personal relationships with them by working at Hire Heroes USA is really rewarding. I’m proud of the work that we do to empower veterans to transform their own military service into civilian success, and I’m grateful to have the opportunity to be part of such a strong team.
Posted by Jessie Sanchez
Jessie Sanchez served for eight years in the United States Marine Corps as musician. Intimidated by the job market and how to effectively find employment, she sought help from Hire Heroes USA. So impressed by their assistance, she applied to join the Hire Heroes USA team to continue her service by empowering veterans like her to successfully transition into civilian careers.