SILVER SPRING, Md. –
The Walter Reed Army Institute of Research hosted an event with the Wounded Warrior Project in observance of National Disability Employment Awareness Month on Oct. 13.
Dozens of WRAIR Soldiers and civilians packed the Behnke Auditorium to listen to Deven Schei, a veteran and spokesperson for the Wounded Warrior Project. His discussion focused on the impact his service had on his family and his entrance into the workforce.
Schei was a member of the 101st Airborne Air Assault division but his service ended with an injury, which left him unable to continue his deployment. “I was in a complex ambush, where I lost a portion of my calf, a portion of my thigh, and had shrapnel all over the left side of my body,” Schei said. “I was left with post-traumatic stress disorder and a traumatic brain injury.”
After a long recovery, Schei encountered more obstacles looking for employment. “After the military, I didn’t know what to do. I was a combat engineer, so I knew how to blow up stuff and not a lot of jobs were looking for that,” Schei said. “When they hear combat engineer, they think that we are engineers. I don’t know how to build anything.”
Schei eventually leveraged the resources provided by the Wounded Warrior Project to build his resume and assist other veterans learn how to transfer their skills to the civilian workforce.
“Everybody who joins the military is a leader at some point in time,” Schei said. “They have leadership skills from E-1 [private] to sergeant major.”
According to Schei, employers are beginning to value the leadership skills veterans gain from their military experience. “I am seeing more companies call us [WWP] for veterans to hire,” Schei said. “They are counting your service almost as a college degree.”
Col. Kreishman-Deitrick, deputy commander for WRAIR, concluded the talk emphasizing that Schei’s struggles are just a small part of a larger story.
“The whole reason we are here is to think about equity and equality in the workforce,” Kreishman-Deitrick said. “Everyone on our team has stories. We don’t know what they are in a lot of cases… but it builds our diversity and strength as a team.”