By John M. Rosenberg, Warrior Care and TransitionFebruary 14, 2017
Army Spc. James Matthews of New Jersey had several years of law enforcement experience under his belt before joining the military. "I was a bit older and had already worked professionally when I joined the Army," says Matthews, currently assigned to Walter Reed National Military Center, Warrior Transition Unit where he is recovering from shoulder and knee injuries.
As an infantryman, Matthews served one tour in Qatar in support of Operation Enduring Freedom before returning to the United States.
With an uncle who was a policeman, Matthews knew that law enforcement was where he wanted to be upon transitioning to the civilian workforce. What he didn't know was that the WTU offered tremendous opportunities for wounded, ill and injured Soldiers, like him, to prepare for life after the military.
"I had absolutely no idea upon coming to Walter Reed WTU of what to expect," says Matthews. "But I was really impressed with the place upon arriving. Right away the leadership was busy taking care of me."
In addition to attending to his injuries the WTU introduced Matthews to the Career and Education Readiness program that he feels should be a centerpiece of every wounded, ill and injured Soldier's Comprehensive Transition Plan. Being somewhat older at the time of his injuries gave Matthews a clearer picture of where he wanted to go professionally than many Soldiers in transition who are younger and have limited civilian work experience.
Matthews was introduced to Operation Warfighter, a Department of Defense internship program that matches qualified wounded, ill and injured Service members with non-funded federal internships in order for them to gain valuable work experience during their recovery and rehabilitation. This process assists with the service members' transition into the civilian work environment where they are able to employ their newly acquired skills in a non-military work setting.
Currently interning at a government agency in Washington via OWF, Matthews' goal is to begin full time employment within his chosen career field upon transitioning from the military. "I keep pushing forward in order to take care of my family," says Matthews. "I'll keep taking advantage of all that the WTU has to offer. If I'd never come here I never would have had the opportunities to find the full time employment that I want for myself in the civilian sector."
"The WTU staff have been a wonderful help to me and my family," says Matthews. "They have a very nice process… just setting you up for success. All you have to do is be willing to do it."