Ed. note: The Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation is commemorating AmeriCorps Week to celebrate the remarkable individuals who have served and their contributions to our country. This blog post introduces readers to Todd Schnittke, a veteran who served from 1989-1993 and continues to serve through AmeriCorps. When asked about his AmeriCorps experience, Todd writes:
After serving our country for four years during the Gulf War as a Multiple Launch Rocket System Technician, I decided to resume my education and get a college degree. I learned about AmeriCorps after entering North Central State College in Mansfield, OH, and I was immediately drawn to the program. Working as an AmeriCorps member at AMVETS Career Center Post #26 in Mansfield offered me the unique opportunity to serve others in my community—especially active duty personnel and veterans—while earning the money I needed to attend college.
I am now in my second year as an AmeriCorps employment specialist at AMVETS. The rate of unemployment for veterans in the State of Ohio is around 16 percent—higher than the national average. The AMVETS Career Center where I work is one of 61 locations that help veterans secure employment through free job training, resume workshops, mock interviews, and access to employment opportunities.
Coming Home is Not Always Easy
The transition from the military to a civilian lifestyle can be very challenging, and I strongly believe that all men and women who risk their lives for our country should have every opportunity for success at home.
Many veterans suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and turn to drugs, alcohol or violent behavior; some end up in the judicial system. Programs like AMVETS give veterans the opportunity to transition from active duty to civilian life in a constructive and enriching way.
I am a member of the treatment team for the Mansfield court, and serving my clients can be a challenge. Yet, my experience in the military helps me identify with their challenges.
A Vet Helping Vets
The AmeriCorps training I received gave me the tools to help veterans through career preparation and secure employment. Because I approach my clients as a fellow veteran, I can quickly establish rapport. I know what they’ve experienced.
As you can imagine, I’ve heard many stories during my service, but one in particular stands out for me. A National Guardsman – single father of two boys -- came to our center in need of assistance. He was in danger of losing his home and could not find work.
Through my network of employers, I was able to help him get a job with a local furniture store. I also referred him to the Veterans Service Commission to get emergency assistance. Our combined efforts were enough to help him keep his home, feed his family, provide fuel to get to his job, and improve his situation from desperate to hopeful.
Serving in AmeriCorps has allowed me to be a valuable asset to my community. I have helped more than 80 veterans in Mansfield and the surrounding areas secure jobs. In 2010, I made my Career Center number one in Ohio, and I was named Coach of the Year. AmeriCorps has helped me transition back to civilian life. I can use my experience and knowledge to solve problems here. That makes it all worthwhile.
Todd Schnittke served for four years during the Gulf War as a Multiple Launch Rocket System Technician