U.S. Army Veteran Howard served for 21 years before retiring in 2004. Shortly after retirement, Howard began experiencing unexplained dizzy spells and fatigue, and was diagnosed with MS.

Howard was uncertain about his future but knew he had to work to retain his health and mobility. Thanks to years of physical therapy, balance therapy, and lots of movement, Howard can walk and relies only on a cane during flare-ups.

After his diagnosis, Howard joined PVA and was an archery instructor for the National Veterans Wheelchair Games for seven years. As he became more active with PVA, Howard became interested in their Veterans Career Program — especially when he heard about the Disabled Veterans Self-Employment Program.

“I went to school for two years to become a gunsmith years ago, and it was an opportunity because I like fixing weapons, and it went hand-in-hand with maybe opening a possible small business with archery, shooting, everything like that, because we don't have a lot in our area that does any kind of repairs on any weapons, or any kind of bows,” Howard said.

Once certified, Howard had the knowledge and skills he needed to run this repair business, but found the red tape surrounding a firearms business to be overwhelming.

“I spent a year trying to get my business up and running, but being in the firearm industry, they really didn't like it,” Howard said. “I'm trying to open up the gunsmithing business, and basically when you're dealing with firearms now, everything has been a dead end. There's no one who wants to finance you.”

Howard enrolled in the Disabled Veterans Self-Employment Program and suddenly had a partner to help him better understand and overcome the challenges in his way. At the end of the eight-week course, Howard had the opportunity to pitch his business to investors and was awarded a $2,500 grant to offset the cost of starting his business.

Howard plans to use the funds to cover the costs of permits and security equipment required by law for firearms repair workshops.

“At this point, I couldn't be any more gracious to the PVA for hosting this class,” Howard said. “Charles [McCaffrey, PVA Veterans Career Program Director] is probably the best instructor I have ever had for business. In the eight weeks, I learned probably two years’ worth of education. He was informative. He provided everything we needed and pretty much exceeded anything you want to know to start a business.”

If you or someone you know is interested in enrolling in PVA’s Veterans Career Program, please reach out to VeteransCareerProgram@pva.org.