Josephine Slack left the Navy three years ago and is looking for her new purpose in life. The Navy saved her, she says, by giving her a mission and awakening a drive for service that she didn’t even know she had.
Josephine met her military recruiter at a party. “He told me he could change my life, and he did,” she recalls. In the Navy, she met her husband, Daniel. And after five years of service, she became pregnant. Seeking stability, she finished her contract and left the military along with her husband, when their son, Raylen, was three months old.
Life hits hard
They were lucky, she says, they had family to go home to. “I realized as soon as we got out that this was way harder than we expected,” she remembers. “Life hits you hard, like a bag of bricks.”
Josephine, her husband and their son moved in with her mom and dad in Bedford. They used the Post 9/11 GI Bill to go back to school. She went to the Cordon Bleu culinary school and he went to UTI. She worked for the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Dallas for a bit, but quit to be home more after her dad suffered medical complications. Daniel works as a mechanic at a car dealership, helping them live paycheck-to-paycheck.
Josephine joined the reserves and is grateful to have health insurance again. She’s working part-time for a company that helps people with financial services. But she’s still looking for a career.
That’s why she was at the Hiring Our Heroes military job fair in Allen last Thursday. By meeting employers face-to-face, she says, she can help explain the gaps in her resume and translate her experience into the civilian world. She’s happy to find employers who are open to hiring veterans and wants to assure them that she’s hirable.
She says, “I think there’s a culture out there that gives people an impression that everyone who leaves the military has PTSD, that we’ve all served in combat—and that’s just not the case.”
Starting in Allen
Hiring Our Heroes is a nationwide program that helps veterans, transitioning service members and military spouses find jobs. They’ve previously hosted events in the DFW area, but this is their first career fair in Collin County.
The event took place December 1 at the Allen Event Center to serve as a “bridge” between employers and the military community.
“Sometimes you find service members who can only talk in military terms, or they get out and things start going downhill and they just need that extra encouragement,” says Charles Thamm, a professional recruiter for FedEx Office and Army Veteran himself. “These events help our veterans, service members and spouses make connections and learn how to transition into the civilian world.”
The Hiring Our Heroes event in Allen included a full workshop with tips for the resume, 30-second elevator pitch and interviewing skills. The career fair included more than 60 employers, all of which had current job openings. Allen’s convenient central location made it a good option, many job seekers said.
Making something great happen
Also present at the event were Allen Mayor Steve Terrell and Gabriella Pate of Congressman Sam Johnson’s office, as well as Denise Voss, representing Senator Van Taylor’s office, who called it the best she’d ever seen.
“This was our first time in Allen and we’ve had a great response from employers and definitely would consider coming back again in the future,” says Julie Russell, Senior Manager of Sports Partnerships and Events with Hiring Our Heroes. “These events are important because you have a lot of employers who realize the value of hiring a veteran and/or military spouse. Then you have people in the military community who are unemployed or maybe under-employed, and looking to find something that’s a better fit. This creates a bridge between those two groups.”
The organization came to the city at the request of Tracey Cline, who works at the Allen Economic Development Corporation and is the mother of a serviceman currently stationed overseas.
“When Tracey came to me with this idea, it made so much sense, and I immediately reached out to Julie to ask her to bring Hiring Our Heroes here,” says Sean Sweeden, a Veterans Employer Liaison for the Texas Veterans Commission in Plano. “There’s never been anything with this type of collaboration this far north in the DFW area. Allen is a booming area, right in the middle of a lot of growth, so why not start here?”
Especially in today’s world, he says, networking is critical, which makes facilitating these types of hiring events for veterans a priority. “You never know who you’re going to meet and who they’re going to know,” Sweeden says. “When you get out exponentially to a few different places, even the ones off the beaten path, you’re going to run into someone who knows someone. They’re going to see your skillset; you can market that to them and hopefully something great happens.”
Employers in Attendance
The Allen Economic Development Corporation would like to recognize and thank the following local employers for participating in the event:
American Fire Protection Group
Avis Budget Group
City of Allen
Collin County Sheriff’s Department
Dallas County Sheriff’s Department
Dallas Police Department
Defense Contract Management Agency
E.A. Renfroe & Company
Federal Bureau of Investigations
First Command Financial Services
Fort Worth Transportation Authority
GENCO, A FedEx Company
Goodyear Tire & Rubber
Heavy Equipment Training
Hilton Dallas Lincoln Centre
Home Helpers of Dallas
Jack Henry & Associates
Little Elm Police Department
Marsh & McLennan Companies
Michael Baker International
National Real Estate Associates
New York Life Insurance
Point2Point Global Security
Prudential Renewal by Andersen
Richardson Police Department
Securitas Security Services
Service King Corporate
Standard Utility Construction
Texas Department of Criminal Justice
Texas Department of Public Safety
Texas Mobile Mechanics
The Brandt Companies
The Home Depot
Time Warner Cable
U.S. Border Patrol
United States Navy Reserve
University of Texas at Dallas
Vestas Wind Systems
Participating Service Providers
Allies in Service
Private Public Partnership
Texas Veterans Commission
Texas Veterans Leadership Program
Texas Workforce Commission
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs