In 2009 Army Capt. Eric Lorence was stationed in Kandahar, where he was training Afghani soldiers. On March 12, 2010, he was on patrol when his truck hit a roadside bomb containing about 300 pounds of explosives. The explosion partially severed his spine.
“I remember waking up and I knew my back was broken. I don’t remember anything after that until I woke up at Walter Reed (Army Medical Hospital).”
With recovery foremost in Eric’s mind, Paralyzed Veterans of America service officers focused on making sure he was enrolled to receive all the Department of Veterans Affairs benefits he was due, such as grants to make his home and automobile accessible, as well as monitoring his care and recovery. But quickly attention turned to getting Eric prepared to return to the workforce.
“I got approached by Jim (Arndt, vocational rehabilitation counselor in Minnesota Operation PAVE office) when I was still inpatient in hospital. That was probably October of 2010; and although I couldn’t really get a job until I was discharged, I did several interviews with (the U.S.) Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS).”
With Arndt providing the contact with FWS, as well as vocational counseling, including résumé and interview preparation, Eric was ready for interviews and by early 2011 he was working for FWS as an administrative assistant. He began in budget administration but before long had advanced to the Office of Equal Opportunity and then to Human Resources, over a period of just about six months. At that point he had caught the attention of Ecological Services, which interviewed and hired him for a similar position in which he performs administrative support, travel bookings, credit card reconciliation, finalizing memos, and handling Freedom of Information Act requests. He calls himself “a jack of all trades” and says his coworkers depend on him.
Lynn Lewis, an assistant regional director at FWS, said, “We in Ecological Services had the opportunity to work with Eric in previous positions, especially as our region's Freedom of Information Act coordinator and in his role in Human Resources. Because we knew Eric and had worked with him—and were impressed with his skills and work ethic—when we had an opening for an administrative assistant, we invited him for an interview. We like what we saw (and had seen), so we selected him for the position, which was a promotion for him (from GS5 to GS6).
“They wanted him,” Arndt said. “I’ve gotten really good reports on him and he’s on the way up, and being given extra responsibilities as he moves around.”
“I’m enjoying it a lot,” Eric said. “They are good people, very friendly, understanding and very flexible with my needs. I’m going to stay as long as my body will let me work, basically. Right now I’m in for the long haul.”
And he says of PAVE, “It’s good; it’s very good. Soldiers getting out of the army—especially with injuries—need a little help. Especially with the economy as it is now, even able-bodied people need help getting jobs, so this kind of help for veterans is great.”