Last May, roughly a year ago, I lost my grandfather to heart complications. He was the first grandparent I have lost. He really had a big part in shaping me as a young man and into my adulthood. He always had to be working, doing something to help others or maybe just to keep his idle hands busy. He taught me about work ethic, and doing a job well every time. He taught me about compassion and consideration of others. He taught me how to love those that I care about and always take care of my fellow man.
Papaw was a gigantic influence on who I wanted to be when I “grew up.” At his funeral, I rummaged through my wallet to find some offering to give to him; to place in his casket. All I could find with any sort of symbolism was my old Temporary Active Duty ID card I received when I got out of the ARMY. My grandfather served in the ARMY and always wanted to trade soldier stories with me; anything from sharing basic training experience at Ft. Know to deploying overseas during time of war. In my grandfathers eyes I was always a soldier, and I wanted to remain that way for the rest of my life. I placed my ID card into his casket and whispered to him, with eyes full of tears, “I’ll always be a soldier for you Papaw.”
Nearly a year passed, and I started feeling like I was welching on my deal a bit. I went into a slump and just started working and sleeping and eating and working and not really making much of a difference for the world I live in. Then my friend Garett came back from his training with Veterans Green Jobs. He told me about some of the programs that VGJ was starting. My ears perked right up and I wanted to know more! He told me of programs that will help homeless vets, and vets with drug and alcohol issues, and vets who just need help finding the venue to launch a career after years of military living. I wanted in, and Garett walked me through the process all the way until now.
I’ve nearly finished my first couple of weeks of the HEAT Academy in Center, CO. I have learned a lot and have already seen the kind of good that VGJ can do for people. Most of the guys in the group have stories similar to mine. Life was slowing down to a nearly complete stop and then one day they heard about this VGJ opportunity and things began to look better for us. We all needed this and plan to make even more great things happen!!
I thank Garett for guiding me, Brett for having his vision and sharing it with me and fourteen others, and thank the fourteen others for being such amazing individuals!! We’re all in this together to help bring VGJ to the forefront of the Green America and the entire Green Collared Nation!!
To any vets that are just thinking about joining the cause: please do it, and you can thank me later You learned a lot of great skills in the military, and it’s time to feel useful again and make a real difference in the world! This organization was founded to help guide our nation’s veterans into stable lifelong careers, and they deserve the most help! While the nation often forgets about what we’ve sacrificed, we have each other now to remind ourselves every day that this nation’s veterans can and WILL continue to serve our nation to the fullest! Please take advantage of this opportunity and maybe one day I can shake your hand and thank you for joining the Green Team!
Mike Flaherty is currently a participant in Veterans Green Jobs’ Home Energy Auditor (HEAT) Training Program in the San Luis Valley of Colorado.