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Outreach is Key for Disabled Veterans Advocates

DENVER – Project: Return To Work (R2W) reaches out to legislators

Visitors to the Colorado Governor’s Residence, known today as the “Boettcher Mansion,” were surrounded by magnificent art and pioneer artifacts, some dating back to the building’s original completion in 1908.

One hundred years later, on a brisk evening in November, a varied group of new-age pioneers gathered. Rob Brazell, President of Project Return2Work (R2W), and Tomas Pimienta, R2W’s Employment Specialist, arrived at the mansion for a night of outreach to Colorado’s legislative community.

Founded in 1998, R2W provides vocational rehabilitation and employment services to Americans with disabilities, including injured soldiers returning from Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere around the world. R2W has developed a unique system effectively blending advanced technologies with traditional evaluation, training, and job placement services.

Hosted by the Denver Women’s Commission and the Colorado Women’s Chamber of Commerce, The Colorado Lawmakers Awards ceremony celebrated five female politicians and their contributions to Colorado’s citizens.

Brazell and Pimienta congratulated Colorado State Senator Nancy Spence, honored for her work as a voice for other female politicians and as a strong advocate of educational issues.

Senator Spence learned from Pimienta that R2W, unlike other employment agencies, balances cutting-edge technology and the personal touch, provided by professional counselors who care…many having themselves successfully coped with personal challenges, to ensure the newly enabled are supported as they “get back to work and back to life,” which just happens to be the R2W slogan.

Employment, education, veterans’ needs, and disability issues were among the main topics of conversation during the event. Brazell and Pimienta discussed R2W’s services with Denver Women’s Commissioner’s Robert “Ken” Sobel and Denver Women’s Commission Director, Chaer Robert. Sobel called his meeting with Brazell “serendipitous,” having learned about the positive impact R2W is having on the lives of those with disabilities.

Following the event, Brazell and Pimienta agreed that new and lasting partnerships with other advocates for the disadvantaged in attendance that evening was highly likely.

Warriors In Transition Receive Job Assistance

CONCORD, MA – Project: Return To Work (R2W) Helps Wounded Warriors Find Jobs

Forty-one soldiers gathered January 07, 2009 at Hanscom Air Force Base for a Community Based Warrior Transition Unit (CBWTU). The Commander, Major Mark O’Clair, invited representatives from Project: Return to Work (R2W) to present information regarding R2W’s vocational rehabilitation services.

R2W is a non-profit organization providing a variety of free services to newly enabled Americans, including injured soldiers returning from Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere around the world. R2W has developed a unique system effectively blending advanced technologies with traditional evaluation, training, and job placement services. Unlike a traditional employment agency, R2W provides applicant-friendly on-line services balanced with the personal touch provided by experienced counselors who truly care about the wounded warriors. R2W was represented at the meeting by Braxton McCoy. McCoy knows first-hand the challenges and needs of wounded warriors. The clock stood still for McCoy on 6 January 2006 at precisely 0917 hours, when dozens of ball-bearings sprayed McCoy, several other soldiers, and a hundred plus Iraqis as the suicide bomber’s explosive vest detonated.

Sgt. McCoy was serving in Iraq with the US Army as part of a “Dog Squad,” an impromptu detail that deploys on a moment’s notice to handle various missions. On the final day of a four day mission to protect Marines at a facility for Iraqi Police recruits, Braxton, a former amateur bull riding cowboy from Utah, almost experienced his last day on earth. Thankfully Braxton survived, but it was McCoy’s last day on duty with his soldier brothers.

Sgt. McCoy was so close to the blast that he was launched sixty meters across a two lane road. McCoy said, “There were eighty-one holes in all,” fifty-seven in Sgt. McCoy’s body, the rest absorbed by his life-saving Kevlar vest and other gear. McCoy’s legs were “jello.” The months that followed were dedicated to a painful series of forty-eight surgeries to reconstruct McCoy’s mangled body, allowing him to overcome his near-fatal wounds to get “Back to work, back to life” (R2Ws slogan). Upon learning of McCoy’s experience and dramatic come-back, Rob Brazell, R2W’s President, was so inspired that he offered McCoy a job as an Employment Specialist…now a soldier helping soldiers.

McCoy began his talk to the group of warriors in transition at Concord with jokes and the “readers digest” version of his story. McCoy was originally attached to a Personal Security Detail (PSD) until a Colonel decided he didn’t need that level of protection and McCoy’s brief and near-fatal mission with the Dog Squad began. The ears of five or six soldiers in the audience immediately perked up, having also served in PSDs.

McCoy continued by explaining the numerous free services offered to help soldiers obtain meaningful employment despite their challenges. R2W’s applicants, with support from professional counselors, complete skill and interest evaluations to find the most suitable jobs for them. The clients are then linked with employers across the nation based upon the job-candidate matching process. If appropriate, government paid internships, or service learning opportunities, are also available to enable applicants up to three months of direct work experience with a real or simulated employer. R2W truly provides effective and vital services that help injured soldiers successfully and quickly transition back to work and back to life!

Following the meeting, McCoy met with the soldiers individually. McCoy customizes his approach to suit each soldier’s specific needs. For example, a Master Sergeant had applied for a job with the VA, who rejected him indicating that although he had been in a PSD for a year and then designated the Non-Commissioned Officer In Charge (NCOIC) of the defense system for a Forward Operating Base (FOB), he was not qualified for the VA’s security job opening. McCoy is helping that soldier translate his military experience (MOS) into terms non-military employers understand, so he will get a second chance at the job.

In all, thirty-seven of the soldiers attending that day signed up for R2W’s services. Jean McIntosh, another one of R2W’s Employment Specialists, is currently working with these soldiers to discuss their specific situations and enable them to understand and utilize the options that best suit their career goals. Rob Brazell, Founder and President of R2W said, “I’m very pleased the partnership with the Northeast CBWTU came together last year, since we already serve soldiers attached to CBWTUs in both Utah and Florida. In the future, we plan to reach even more warriors in transition by partnering with other organizations across the nation.”

Wounded Warrior Support Groups Coming Together

Wounded Warrior Support Groups Coming Together

FORT CARSON – Project Return2Work (R2W) attends CIMS Meeting

Colorado Injured Military Support (CIMS) is a local networking group of military support organizations. Over the years, the group has grown from six members to nearly fifty. CIMS meets regularly at Fort Carson to discuss ways to better address the special needs of active duty military personnel and veterans.

At the CIMS gathering, introductions by the various service providers were followed by a roundtable discussion focusing on current issues. During the CIMS group meetings, the discussions have helped to surface a variety of collaboration opportunities. For example, Project: Return to Work (R2W) has developed a partnership with Denver Options.

R2W is a non-profit organization providing free vocational rehabilitation and employment services to Americans with disabilities, including injured soldiers returning from Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere around the world. R2W has developed a unique system effectively blending advanced technologies with traditional evaluation, training, and job placement services.

Denver Options, another non-profit organization, also supports the disabled and is now referring soldiers injured during Operation Iraqi Freedom or Operation Enduring Freedom to R2W for support.

R2W was represented by its President, Rob Brazell, and two of R2W’s Employment Specialists. The gathering enabled one of R2W’s Employment Specialists to meet Alfreda Johnson, Denver Options’ Care Coordinator, and they quickly bonded, both having served in the Marines. Johnson provided R2W with one hundred and twenty wounded warrior referrals which R2W was actively coaching to get them “back to work, back to life” – the R2W slogan.

During the meeting, the needs of wounded warriors were punctuated by the testimonials of three retired soldiers, all now working for Denver Options. As they shared their personal experiences and the challenges they have overcome, Susan Graham, wife of Major General Mark Graham (Commanding General, Division West, First Army and Fort Carson) found it hard to restrain her emotions. Her son, 2nd Lieutenant Jeff Graham, was killed while serving in Iraq. Helping the soldiers and Marines that have returned from battle, scarred but ready to carry on, is close to her heart.

Mike Meyer, Vice President of Salute American Heroes and Owner of Blackhorse Worldwide, delivered the keynote speech and thanked the soldiers for their service and sacrifice, while commending those who support them in times of need. Brazell and Meyer immediately hit it off, intently discussing methods for their organizations to partner and connect with others to support the wounded warriors in transition. Meyer had previously arranged a free trip for a group of wounded warriors and their families to fly to Orlando, Florida to visit Disneyworld. Brazell later said, “My hat’s off to Mike and generous sponsors such as United Airlines, which provided free air transportation.”

Asked how CIMS helps wounded warrior advocates, one R2W Employment Specialist said, “Connecting with upper level people in these other organizations is key. Partnerships are developing, and now R2W is receiving referrals from other organizations like Denver Options and Salute American Heroes. It’s all about helping these soldiers move on to the next step in their lives. They deserve all the support we can give.”

Wounded Warriors Welcomed Home

FORT CARSON, CO – Project: Return to Work (R2W) Welcomes Warriors in Transition

Wounded warriors returning from Iraq or Afghanistan were welcomed home by grateful supporters.

For some soldiers, the Warrior Transition Unit (WTU) is a brief stop-over during the recovery process prior to re-joining their former units or re-assignment to other details. For the rest, it is a step leading to a medical discharge.

Regardless, the “Joe Gmelch Wounded Warrior Welcome Socials” have been monthly affairs since LTC Joe Gmelch started the program in 2006. However, they are now scheduled quarterly as the number of soldiers injured in the Mideast has steadily decreased.

Apparently, the January Social was the hot ticket in town, attracting such notables as Michael Bennet (replacing Senator Salazar in the U.S. Senate), and Christina Sacha (the current Mrs. Colorado).

As always, Major General Mark Graham, Commanding General Division West, First Army and Fort Carson was there to welcome the soldiers with a warm handshake.

Also in attendance were Rob Brazell, President of Project: Return to Work (R2W) and his father Ray Brazell (a WWII Marine), along with other R2W Employment Specialists.

R2W is a non-profit organization providing free vocational rehabilitation services to injured soldiers. R2W has developed a unique system effectively blending advanced technologies with traditional evaluation, training, and job placement services.

The gathering enabled R2W Employment Specialists to talk to several injured soldiers and Marines. Several R2W members have served in the Army and other areas of the military.

Outreach and service that goes beyond the soldier’s expectations separates R2W from the traditional “employment agency.” “Once the word gets out about
what we do, R2W is always requested and accepted. The soldiers walk away with a sense that they can rest easier knowing that they will be taken care of after their military service is over.”

After all, “back to work, back to life” is the R2W slogan.

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