Patrick Herman has always been drawn to work that offers wide open spaces. His first career, 20 years spent working for Sea-Land, took him all over the globe. Now, thanks to Paralyzed Veterans of America's Operation PAVE Program (Paving Access for Veterans Employment), at age 59 Herman has achieved his “next life” dream job, working for the U.S. Forest Service. He did so through the assistance and determination of the experienced employment counseling provided by Joan Haskins, acting director of the PAVE program.
“If it was not for Joan at Paralyzed Veterans of America,” he says, “I would not be here. I was at the bottom of the food chain, homeless, with mental and alcohol problems that were made worse by an aneurysm when she got in touch with me.”
I was at the bottom of the food chain, homeless, with mental and alcohol problems that were made worse by an aneurysm when she [Joan at Paralyzed Veterans] got in touch with me.
Herman was referred to Haskins by an California Department of Rehabilitation vocational rehabilitation counselor in August 2010, when she was recruiting for a federal agency in Ventura County. Although Herman is not a veteran, his daughter Evelyn served in the Army, stationed at Fort Bragg and Fort Campbell, and in Iraq. Operation PAVE primarily supports the job-search efforts of veterans, but it also provides vocational rehabilitation assistance to the family members of veterans.
“Patrick is faced with multiple disabilities, and any one of them is significant,” Haskins noted. Her efforts included sharing resources and introducing him to the federal jobs Web site, working in collaboration with his Department of Rehabilitation counselor. She also worked to keep him focused and mentally prepared and assisted with résumé preparation.
Herman praises Haskins for her endless enthusiasm, which kept him going whenever his spirits flagged and the search seemed fruitless, as well as for her coaching. “It was a lot of things,” he says. “She showed me how important it is to get applications in fast, get those Schedule A letters attached. And she made sure I got them almost before I asked.”
It was a lot of things. She [Joan] showed me how important it is to get applications in fast...And she made sure I got them almost before I asked.
In August 2011, Herman had accepted a technical sales associate position with Staples in Oxnard, a gap job for which he worked weekends. In February 2012, with Haskins’ continued help, he also began working full-time for Pride Industries at Port Hueneme Naval Base in Ventura County. The two jobs combined paid him more than $50,000 a year.
Meanwhile, Herman continued to look for positions in the U.S. Forest Service, which had been his goal from the start. “I’ve always enjoyed the outdoors, and helping people, and I wanted a job with purpose and meaning behind it.” He also was looking for a place where people would work with his disabilities, which he figured would not be a regular office job.
This spring he learned that he had been hired as a Visitor Services information assistant at the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest in Entiat, Washington. His first day was May 21.
“Joan was always there for me,” Herman says. “She was a strong motivating force behind my search. You don’t go from being homeless because of mental disabilities, to where I am now without people like Joan. Organizations like (Paralyzed Veterans) help men like me to strengthen our lives and get back on our feet.”
Organizations like (Paralyzed Veterans) help men like me to strengthen our lives and get back on our feet.