How Easterseals helped this veteran build a life after service

This post is sponsored by Easterseals.

When he finished his enlistment and left the Army in 2012, Alex Ortega wasn’t quite sure what he wanted to do for his post-military career.

With no specific plan for a civilian career, Ortega decided school was the best option. But he still wasn’t sure what direction to take.

While in school one of his classmates, a military veteran like him, mentioned help available through the Easterseals Bob Hope Veterans Support Program.

An Easterseals employment specialist helped Ortega by guiding the former soldier through the process of crafting a plan for his post-military education and to find work in a professional field.

The specialist helped Ortega retool and improve his resume — such as translating military-specific tasks and jobs he held during his six years in the Army into similar, equivalent duties in civilian employment. With the specialist’s help, Ortega was able to detail his military experience on his resume in a way that was clearer and more relevant to potential civilian employers.

That assistance paid off. Today, Ortega works as a veteran peer support specialist at a leading university in Southern California.

“An employment specialist will help that veteran accomplish his or her goals, which is very important,” he said. “I’m very thankful for Easterseals and the employment mentorship. They provided great mentorship and guidance for me and assisted in the transition … from my military experience to my civilian job now that I’m completely happy and content in.”

Ortega said he’s grateful to the work of the Easterseals Bob Hope Veterans Support Program, which “is making a big difference in the lives of veterans like myself.”

Ortega is among many veterans and their spouses who have received help, guidance and resources through Easterseals and the Bob Hope Veterans Support Program. The transition assistance program gives veterans and their families some peace of mind after they leave the military and have to reset themselves or their families for a new chapter of life — whether they want to find civilian employment, pursue college or technical training, or start a small business.

Funded with a seed grant from The Bob Hope Legacy, the support program was launched in 2014 and provides referrals and resources, including one-on-one support for transitioning veterans and reservists and National Guard members who are leaving active duty.

The program provides resources that fit each veteran’s interests, skills and goals. Specialists help them write resumes, sharpen interviewing skills, learn how to network and boost their confidence to help them obtain work with potential employers. The program also helps with direct referrals to partner agencies who can provide housing, legal assistance, counseling or child care.

Support is free for post-Sept. 11, 2001, veterans leaving active or reserve duty who intend to work in San Diego County or Orange County and who have received an honorable, general or other-than-honorable discharge. A veteran does not need to have a disability to be eligible for the program.

The service also is available to spouses or registered domestic partners of veterans who are unable to work due to a disability.

The transition program is part of Bob Hope’s legacy, and its impact is felt in veterans like Ortega. He follows a long lineage of military service in his family, including his father, brother and an uncle who all served in the Army like him.

Growing up, Ortega often watched videos of Bob Hope as he entertained tens of thousands of U.S. troops during his famous USO shows and worldwide tours.

“For a well-known comedian to come out like that and boost the morale of the troops in tough times, it’s a game-changer, and it really helps the veterans get through the day and deployment,” he said. “It really brings a touch of home, a piece of the United States to wherever they were.”