Noe Cevallos is a veteran Marine and a wounded warrior, but to his credit he is not defined by his injuries and considers himself stronger as a result of his struggles.
"It's just the way I was raised, and also being a Marine you learn not to feel sorry for yourself and to get your job done," he said.
In 2007, just a day after Americans celebrated the 4th of July, Cevallos and another Marine were on patrol in Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
"I got hit by two IEDs [on two occasions nearly two days apart]," he recalled. "I had double vision, ringing in my ears, I was out of it, I was knocked out and I'd had my bell rung real good."
In a daze, Cevallos did not sustain any physical injuries from either blast, and was told by others in his unit he was lucky to be alive.
Shortly thereafter, Cevallos, an infantry machine gunner, was sent to Quantico, Va., to train other Marines on artillery. This time, the gunfire proved too difficult to endure.
"I couldn't take it. I'd be out on the range and the sounds gave me real bad headaches," he said. "I wasn't myself, I knew something was wrong."
Cevallos was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). He worried about how his illness would impact his ability to provide for his wife and little girl.
"I'm not just going to sit around and not work. I needed to find a job that would be suitable for me and that I could do to the best of my ability," said Cevallos, and that he did with the assistance of Naval District Washington's Human Resource Office, Washington (HRO-W) Wounded Warrior Employment Program.
The Human Resource Office, Washington (HRO-W) Wounded Warrior Employment Program is dedicated to assisting wounded warriors and disabled veterans from all branches of service with transition to federal civilian employment. With the help of advisor and program manager Laura Stanek, it took just four months to land Cevallos a job.
"Laura Stanek is awesome," said Cevallos. "She not only helped me with my resume, but made contacts, trained me and her contact didn't stop even when the job offers came."
Staffers at HRO-W take the skills service-members learn in the field and relate them to skills and abilities used in the traditional workplace, said Stanek.
"HRO-W is a one-stop shop for wounded warrior federal employment assistance," she said.
Another program that assists wounded warriors in making a successful transition from military service to the civilian workforce is the Navy's Safe Harbor program.
Navy Safe Harbor's goal is to return Sailors and Coast Guardsmen to duty and, when not possible, work collaboratively with federal agencies - including the VA and the Department of Labor - and state and local organizations to ensure successful reintegration of shipmates back into their communities. Navy Safe Harbor support does not end at the door of a medical treatment facility. The key to the program's success is providing service members with a lifetime of care and support.
Judith B. Carlisle is a Recovery Care Coordinator for the Navy Safe Harbor program at the National Naval Medical Center (NNMC).
"We utilize wounded warrior's services and help them to participate in internships and education programs," Carlisle said. "If they're sitting around they are not building up skills and a resume they'll need on the outside to achieve their career goals.”
According to Carlisle, participating in team sports also helps wounded warriors surmount some of their professional and personal obstacles. In fact, some of the wounded warriors in the region are competing in the Warrior games. This year marks the second annual Warrior Games, an athletic competition among 200 wounded, ill, and injured service members from all branches of the U.S. military.
The Paralympic-style event, which is organized by the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Olympic Committee, USO, and Ride to Recovery, takes place May 16-21 in Colorado Springs, Colo. Thirty-five warrior athletes are participating in the Navy/Coast Guard team, which is sponsored by Navy Safe Harbor.
"The Warrior Games bring together active-duty service members and military veterans from across the country, fostering camaraderie and a healthy competitive spirit. The event helps them discover new capabilities they can apply to everyday challenges and opportunities, and encourages them to reach for and achieve a rich and productive future," Carlisle said.
Noe Cevallos, now working as an Access Control Assistant in the federal government, credits the support of his "amazing" wife and Naval District Washington's wounded warrior programs with his success.
"We coordinate non-medical care and we work hand-in-hand with the medical team and organizations like HRO-W to insure a smooth recovery and when necessary, transition," said Carlisle. "It is a blessing to work with this population."