Paralyzed Veterans of America National Service Officer (NSO) Aliyah Hunter knew after serving more than eight years with the Army National Guard that she was destined to make her life’s work about serving her fellow veterans.
Born in Staten Island, N.Y., and raised in Baltimore, Aliyah joined the National Guard in 1999 while attending Virginia Union University for an undergraduate degree in English. But after being injured in 2003 while serving on a 14-month deployment in Iraq, Aliyah returned home with a different career path in mind: sociology and human services.
“Coming from a personal place, when you get out of the military, it’s tough to know how to navigate the benefits and get acclimated back into society; you often have to find that information out on your own,” Aliyah says. “Looking back, it would have been helpful to have someone there to show those steps, so it’s brought me great pleasure to do that for other veterans.”
Aliyah went on to finish her undergraduate degree in sociology, serving a short stint as a counselor before discovering she was meant to serve the veteran population. She worked at various government and non-profit organizations, including one serving homeless veterans, while she earned her masters degree in human services administration at Coppin State University and the University of Baltimore.
After more than eight years working at various organizations, including the Social Security Administration, Aliyah discovered an NSO job announcement at Paralyzed Veterans of America’s Baltimore VA regional office.
“I came across a job opening at Paralyzed Veterans, and after reading the job description and more about the organization, I realized it was everything I wanted to do,” says Aliyah, who started in the Baltimore office in December 2013.
While the job description and chance to work with veterans is what brought Aliyah to Paralyzed Veterans of America, it’s the mission of the organization – to advocate for the unique needs of disabled veterans – that keeps her here.
“I get up every morning, and I’m excited about what I do because I know there’s a veteran or a spouse who I’m helping to change their lives for the better and improve their quality of life,” Aliyah says. “I don’t think there’s anything more rewarding.”
Find a Paralyzed Veterans of America National Service Office near you
Brittany Ballenstedt is a freelance journalist whose work has appeared in several publications, including Government Executive, National Journal, Technology Daily and NextGov.com.