I Can Now Verbalize My Story
After 13 deployments, a distinguished 20-year army career, a life-changing injury due to a jumping accident and overcoming a difficult childhood, Jeremy has finally found what he was meant to do in his second career: as a counselor who helps other veterans with transitioning, education and employment opportunities.
Jeremy was born in El Cajon, California, near San Diego. “I had several problems growing up trying to live the stereotypical San Diego teen lifestyle of being free and uninhibited. I spent more time investing with my friends and social life than my education and preparation for life. I was a bit of a troublemaker: I drank at a young age and smoked pot for most of my teenage years. I think I was trying to emulate what was happening in my household from my older brother and parents.”
His behavior got him kicked out of high school in his junior year in 1995. “On a whim, I decided to run away from home: I loaded up my stuff in a buddy’s car, left California, and headed to Evansville, Indiana, to stay with a friend. I found a couple of jobs and stayed for nine months until I decided to call my parents to ask if I could come back home.”
The next year he decided to earn his GED with a new feeling of self-motivation and advice from his grandmother (his beloved grandfather had since passed away) and from another family member. “I was hired at Jet Products, first as a machine shop maintenance/janitor then I was moved up to running vertical turning lathes and vertical boring machines. Things were finally going well for me, but doing the same job every day and seeing through my coworkers my life in the next 20-30 years, I realized I wanted to be something bigger in my life.
‘I had thought about joining the Navy; my grandfather retired from Navy after a 32-year career. I had worked with former soldiers at Jet, so they had some influence in my joining the Army as well. I was 19, almost 20, and I was sitting at the shopping mall when a recruiter came up to me while I was eating my lunch and asked if I was interested in joining the military. My childhood dream was becoming a naval aviator, but I didn’t think the Navy would want me without a high school diploma or college. He told me that in 1998, people with GEDs were eligible to join. I went to the recruiting office that afternoon to sign up.”
His first enlistment contract was for three years in the infantry with a station of choice in Hawaii—also where his grandfather had previously been stationed, and his father had grown up there for a while. “A friend of my mom told me I wouldn’t be happy in the infantry for the long term, so during basic training, I wanted to do something bigger and began my career as an Airborne Ranger with the 75th battalion.” Family friends would eventually contact his chain of command and have his initial enlistment changed to include Airborne school, and added the 75th Ranger Indoctrination Program.
“In 2001, when I was ready to decide to reenlist for another six years, I was getting married, had a debt to pay off, and would be able to live off-base. Then 9-11 happened. My battalion was begging to join the fight.”
In 2003 he was deployed to South Africa for a 30-day joint operations training deployment and foreign jump wings exchange with the South Africans and their equipment. “I had a freak accident when another jumper’s parachute lines and our bodies tangled, and I had a rough landing. I broke my lower back, had radiating nerve damage, broken vertebrae, and had bulging discs: the results and pain I’ve been living with for the last 16 years. I wore a full traction brace for a year.” But even with this injury, he was deployed for the sixth time for five months to Afghanistan and two more times wearing the brace.
“I was at a point where, because of my injuries, I could no longer be in the infantry. In 2007 I started as a career counselor in an office job. I was still getting deployed because my job was to be available to soldiers whose enlistments were expiring while they were overseas and to advise them on reenlisting or how to transition out of the service.”
In 2018, after 20 years in the army, I realized my overall health was at a turning point. My 100-year-old grandmother was still receiving her husband’s navy pension, and I knew if I retired I would be guaranteed an income for the rest of my life as well as healthcare for my family and me. I was ready to start the second part of my life as a civilian.”
For almost a year he worked for First Command Financial Planning with a friend, a company that offers financial planning and banking for America's armed forces and military families, with 170 offices worldwide. “But our professional and personal relationship fell apart, so I left that job.”
“John Sterling, the MVP Atlanta Chapter Coordinator and I met at the Army Master Resiliency training course in 2016. We bonded and became friends. When he started telling me about a new MVP chapter that he wanted to start in Georgia, I told him ‘I was in.’” The Chapter opened in December 2018. John is still active duty until the end of 2019. “We both live in Augusta and drive into Atlanta every Tuesday for the 6:30 pm meeting—a four-hour round trip.”
Through another MVP member, Jeremy heard about a job opening as a Veteran Outreach Coordinator with The Warrior Alliance. He’s currently a consultant helping veterans with their transition, education, employment and paring them with partner organizations that can help them with their needs. The organization is based in Atlanta, where he hopes to move to in the near future.
“MVP has allowed me to verbalize my story, tell people what I’ve done in my military career, even when I’ve been apprehensive about talking about it, and has advanced my speaking skills. Even though I’m a social butterfly, sometimes it’s hard for me to open up about myself at the meetings when others just want to listen instead of sharing. Sometimes I get in their faces to encourage them to share—not just in bits and pieces, but to continue to add to their personal stories. MVP is a place where they can trust and respect John and I and their fellow members.”