I felt called to join the military following both of my grandfathers’ footsteps. After graduating from Army Airborne School in 2007 as an Airborne Infantryman, I was stationed in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Soon after arriving, and eager to begin my military career, I deployed to Iraq for 15 months. During that deployment, I suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) during combat operations that resulted in a significant hospital stay and over a year of rehabilitation that nearly cost me my life once I returned stateside.
Even with my extensive injuries, I was eager to rejoin the fight. I redeployed as a member of a Personal Security Detachment unit to Afghanistan in 2010, and later acted as the Platoon Sergeant of a Security Forces Platoon. On January 19, 2011 on the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan, I was approximately 10 feet away from a 15 year-old child suicide bomber when he detonated himself; the blast left me with another TBI and other injuries. After over a year of inpatient and outpatient medical treatment and recovery at Walter Reed and Womack Army Medical Center, I learned that the Army was going to medically retire me at 100%.
SSG Milo with Dirty and her
pups in Spin Boldak, Afghanistan.
I was really angry. I did not want to leave the Army, and I felt badly leaving my brothers and sisters in the military. To add to that, all I wanted to do was serve in the military. When I joined the Army, I assumed that it would be a life-long profession for me; I had no idea what else I could possibly do, and my injuries only added to that anxiety and Post Traumatic Stress (notice I did not use the “D”) I was dealing with. I wasn’t motivated to attend any transition program let alone let go of the military lifestyle because I was scared to death of life outside the Army.
A Platoon Sergeant at the Warrior Transition Unit where I was stationed recommended an upcoming Warrior Transition Workshop hosted by Hire Heroes USA. One of the instructors, Ted Schwinn, introduced himself to the class as retired Army Infantry. So, right away, he earned credibility and my attention. The first day of the workshop motivated me enough to complete my resume early, so the next day, I offered to help other classmates in the workshop with their resumes. As part of the continuum of services offered by Hire Heroes USA, Ted offered to keep in touch with me to let me know about any opportunities for employment in Colorado Springs, since that was where I wanted to retire.
Even though the military is built upon teamwork, it also emphasizes self-sufficiency, so asking for individual help was a foreign concept to me. Since I knew my future was at stake, I swallowed my pride and, a few months before my retirement date in 2013, took Ted up on his offer and reached out to him about any job leads in his area. The timing was perfect, since Hire Heroes USA was hiring at their Colorado Springs office. I immediately applied, and was offered a job as a Veteran Transition Specialist.
I went from being angry about my situation to being hopeful. The transition into civilian employment was much easier than I anticipated or feared. A lot of that is because I was lucky enough to find a career that allowed me to continue serving veterans. Part of it, though, was that the Hire Heroes USA workshop I attended helped prepare me for my future career.
A successful Veteran Transition Specialist has many of the same qualities that make someone successful in the military: integrity, passion for service, a sense of humor, and hard work. Having proudly served seven years in the military, I was able to apply these qualities directly to my new career helping other veterans make the transition to civilian employment. I learned so much and was treated so well by Hire Heroes USA staff during the Warrior Transition Workshop I attended and beyond; it’s my goal to make sure that every veteran I assist receives that same great treatment, and that every Veteran Transition Specialist I now supervise provides that same high level of personalized service.
While my military career certainly didn’t end up the way I had anticipated, I’m grateful to Hire Heroes USA for setting me up for success in my civilian career, and for allowing me to continue serving veterans as a member of their team.
Posted by Spencer Milo
After two combat injuries and a forced medical retirement from the service he loved, Purple Heart recipient U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Spencer Milo attended a Hire Heroes USA workshop that changed his life. Now, as a Hire Heroes Veteran Programs Office Manager, he gives back by empowering other veterans to successfully transition into civilian careers.