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Celebration of Service

Volunteers help American veterans transition to civilian careers


Amy Berk has never served in the United States Armed Forces, but had enjoyed her interactions with military staff in her role as a consultant in the Healthcare Services Industry in Bethesda, Maryland. It was there she met United States Army Reserve Capt. Marci T. Hodge, who was beginning a new role as a civilian program analyst in the Department of Defense's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office after two tours in Iraq, and pondering career options outside the military.

Drawn together by the American Corporate Partners (ACP) mentoring program for veterans in transition, the two became fast friends. "This has been a great experience for both of us," Hodge said. "You come out of the military with great skills, but you have been immersed in a really structured environment. Amy has helped me polish my resume and motivated me to think about things outside the military."

The encounter was just as positive for Berk. "I would recommend the experience to any volunteer who would like to share life experiences with a returning veteran," Berk said. "Marci and I meet once a month, talk about the challenges she might be having, and I help her build a resume for the civilian world, if that's where she wants to wind up. It's a very rewarding experience for both of us."

For Vonell "Miki" Hooker, an IBM transition manger in Raleigh, North Carolina, the ACP mentor program was yet one more opportunity to share his experiences in military and corporate life. After 26 years as a logistics specialist in the United States Air Force, the retired major was selected by ACP to team with an enlisted Army soldier, Srini Vaikunth, returning to civilian life after two tours in Iraq.

"We immediately connected," recalls Hooker, a veteran of Desert Storm." Vaikunth and I met, went over his resume and his immediate, short-term and long-term goals for civilian life. He has a computer science degree, but his military service was in human resources. We concluded that he needed specific experience for the type of job he wanted, and I helped him apply for a good MBA program, so he can reach his career goals."

This was Hooker's first experience with ACP, but it was hardly his first role as mentor. During his military years and life in the corporate world, he's made a practice of sharing experiences with people he's taken under wing; some of those relationships have gone on for decades. He began coaching a young single parent in 1991, for example, encouraging her to drop her negative attitude about her prospects and reach her potential. He stayed engaged as she earned an associate degree, then a bachelor's, and she's now in the final steps of a PhD in human resources.

"As a mentor, I am very proud of this rare opportunity to give back," he said.

If you're 35 or over, have significant corporate experience, and are willing to make a one-year commitment to spend at least four hours a month with your "protege" returning from Iraq or Afghanistan, visit the ACP website for more information.