Thursday, January 15, 2009

Help This Veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom Find a New Job

I met Courtney Hughey online at Twitter when the words "veteran OIF" in her profile caught my eye. I asked her to write a guest post about her experiences as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. (She joined the Army National Guard HHC 151st Signal Battalion in 2000 and deployed to Baghdad from 2003-2004.)

Then I realized that, in her role as president of Greenville, SC., Jaycees, she's going to be the January 28th guest on the BlogTalkRadioShow Your Military Life that I co-host with Nancy Brown of (Small world.)

Read Courtney's guest post below and then look at her graphic design portfolio at I'm hoping that you'll send this blog post to friends (click on tiny envelope at the bottom of post) who might help her get a new job. You know, six degrees of separation. Here's Courtney:

When people separate from the military with less then enough years to retire they normally have one of two reactions: relief or remorse. I unfortunately experienced both.

Growing up I never really had any interest in joining the military. I grew up in Charlotte, NC, and moved to Easley, SC, at the age of 16. I didn't know anyone, I wasn't received well and I really wanted to start over. Some of the friends I had made at my high school my junior year decided to cut class on Senior Skip Day (you know, the holiday that doesn't exist?). That was the day all the juniors had to take the ASVAB test. No interest in the military, no reason to take the test.

Well, I forgot, I forgot to skip that day and ended up taking this crazy long test and really never thought anything more of it. A few weeks later I received a call from a National Guard Recruiter wanting to talk to me about the military. Uh no...I don't think so.

The more I let him talk...the better it sounded. I didn't have direction, no money for college and I was overweight. The military might help me with all my problems. I met with him a few times to talk and then finally brought my mom and dad in to sign for me to enlist on October 21st, 2000.

It was a struggle for me. I told all my friends at school and they all thought I was crazy. People at work said I couldn't do it but for the first time in a while I had direction and purpose. I had to lose 40 pounds to make weight and I did.

I started applying to colleges left and right and was energized and finally knew what it meant to be proud of myself and my country. Through my senior year many of my friends followed suit and joined other branches. Then September 11th happened.

I was scheduled to leave for boot camp in November and this was scary. I wanted to go to boot camp as soon as possible to help anyway I could. I selected to be a Cable Systems Installer (31L or Cable Dawg to some) because it was the shortest class and would get me home quick. I was home maybe six months and we were deployed to Iraq.

I was stationed in Baghdad for nine months out of my 12-month tour. I learned so much in that year about myself, life and pride. Suddenly I was there for my country and not for myself. It was hard and things I saw were evil and devastating. We were attacked regularly and we lost loved ones but I couldn't leave so I just made the best of it. I kept a journal for my family so they knew what was going on, and I eventually made it into a huge elaborate scrapbook to one day show to my kids.

We were able to get school supplies donated from the states to a school that had been ransacked. It was the most rewarding experience and definitely a turning point in my life. Who I am can be separated into “before deployment” and “after deployment.” As bad and good as it was I would do it all again in a heart beat.

Once we returned home it was hard to adjust back to normal life. I had some huge anger management issues. I had been on constant guard of my surroundings for a year and a half and back in 2003 the process for de-mobilization was weak. It was like I hit a brick wall. I started “eating my feelings” so to speak and gained a lot of weight back. I went to college and graduated with an associate degree in graphic design.

I was struggling to pass PT tests and it wasn't a priority. I was a very good soldier but the PT part was hard for me and eventually I gave up. I was hurt and felt the military was losing a good soldier who wanted to be there but just she couldn't run. So when my contract was up I didn't re-enlist. I regret it every day but I enjoy the life I am able to live because of what the military has done for me and the person the military made me.

I got a job with a RE/MAX location here in Greenville, SC. They have a program called Operation RE/MAX where they help veterans and military spouses obtain careers within the company. This program influenced my boss to hire me based partially on my military experience. I worked there for almost two years before getting laid off this past Christmas. The real estate market is down all over the country, and graphic design and my expertise is a luxury.

However that is not all I offer. I am also the president of our local Junior Chamber of Commerce chapter, and we do a lot of community service projects, professional and leadership training. Event planning and social media/marketing is a passion of mine. I am looking for anything resembling those subjects. I would love to work for a non-profit, ad agency or the government. I come highly recommended, and I am searching for that employer that can benefit from a soldier/civilian like me.

Thanks for any help you can offer and God bless America!

The photo is of Courtney and a child from one of the villages in Baghdad in 2003. Her unit was taking school supplies to this village and she was responsible for getting donations from back home. They got over $350 worth of school supplies. This child in particular was really fond of Jolly Rancher ... we can't see it but his pockets were stuffed with them.


Lauren said...

Thanks for sharing your story! Good luck :)

Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

Thank you so much for turning me on to this page. My best to your efforts, Phyllis, and to Courtney. I shall pass this forward at

Carolyn Howard-Johnson

Katrina L Wampler said...

Good Luck. Perhaps I could offer an interview on Kat Logic and on

I'd love to help in any way possible... email me @ . I have an idea.

Sun Singer said...

Thank you for sharing your story. I hope you find the perfect job. Meanwhile, have you considered writing an article or essay (maybe even a "My Turn" article for Newsweek) about your experiences?


CHughey said...

Hey Malcolm

What is My Turn on Newsweek? Sounds interesting...thanks for reading.


Trish | eMOM said...

It would be great if you could include links to people's twitter profiles in your articles too. That helps us find them more easily.

Carolina Closeout said...

I'm proud to say that Courtney is not only my niece, but truly one of the best people I've encountered in my life. Her drive to "do" and "be" all she can is testiment to the kind of person she is. Caring and giving of herself. Intelligent and strong. Funny and witty. She is all of these things and anyone should be proud to have her as an employee. Good luck my sweet niece. We love you tons!

Phyllis Zimbler Miller said...

Thank you, everyone, for your support of this blog post about Courtney Hughey -- I appreciate it and I know she does too.

And, Trish, I like your idea of linking to someone's Twitter profile.


Brian Butler said...

I love to hear more of your story... I hope you have found the right kind of job and doing good...