BeneLynk Veteran Employee Spotlight: Gonzalo
Tell us about why you joined the Navy
I joined the military in my junior year of high school because I wanted to travel for free (which worked out as I traveled to about 20 countries in the Navy). I think It is hard for me to hear “thank you for your service” because enlisting is something I did for my personal reasons, and without any high ideals. I thought I was enlisting for four years to do some travelling. Well, 24 years later I retired as a Chief Petty Officer E7. In that time, I traveled to many countries and met people from all over the world. As a hospital corpsman I had the opportunity to serve with both the Navy and Marine Corps.
One of the things we have found at BeneLynk is that our veteran-employees are excellent at overcoming challenges. Can you share some of the challenges you faced in the military?
After my tenth year I volunteered for submarine duty, and soon I was off to school for a year. I graduated and flew out the next day to my first submarine. On that first voyage I found myself responsible for the health and welfare of approximately 150 sailors. The voyage was uneventful until we needed to send one of our crew-members home for a family illness. To achieve this, we have to deliver him to the surface in some rough seas. During the transfer, water came in through our escape trunk, set electrical equipment on fire, and disabled some of our electrical systems. We stayed at sea and the crew banded together to get our electrical system back online. It was at this time that I learned to trust the great skill, training and dedication of those that serve. Even young men who had expressed second thoughts about having enlisted were able to knuckle down and perform when it was needed.
In 2001, I found myself in our HQ offices when someone came in an announced a plane hit the twin towers, in disbelief we ran to the TV to see the second plane hit the second tower. As I returned to my submarine all our crew hurried to tighten down the openings and quickly load supplies. We were getting ready to get underway to go wherever we were ordered. My last two years were the most exciting as we set out for two back-to-back deployments. I learned that our country is more than just a flag, or a constitution. Our country is hope that we can be free.
Share your military-to-civilian career transition experience
My transition to a civilian career was challenging. My rating as hospital corpsman does not readily transition to a civilian career without additional education. To meet this challenge, I have worked on developing and emphasizing my customer service and people skills. I have worked in a variety of jobs since exiting the Navy. I am very happy to now be a Bilingual Advocate at Benelynk. The truth is I love to help people.
How would you advise your fellow veterans that are in the process of transitioning to the civilian workforce?
The best advice I can give to any veteran is to be persistent and to keep looking for the right fit. Remember to use the experience and skills you have learned in the military. Your experience is not just limited to your specialty. There are many other skills that we bring to any place of employment. You can’t be taught teamwork, dedication, respect, drive, and the satisfaction of a job well done. These skills are inherent to any military veteran and are valuable to the right employer.
Have you had an opportunity to talk with a member who is a veteran and if so, what was it like to help that person?
I have spoken with many veterans and it is always interesting to discuss the places they have travelled. As an advocate there is a period while I am completing the application forms where I have a chance to chat with the member. During this time, I tend to engage in small talk about the weather, where they live and their experiences in the service. It’s always great to speak with a fellow Sailors or Marines — of course these are the people I have the most in common with, but I always find it interesting to hear all of our senior members stories.
How does your military experience impact your work at BeneLynk?
When I speak with a member who is hesitant about whether we are legitimate or not I share my veteran experience. This helps to build trust in the relationship. And I think my experience as a veteran, makes me particularly grateful for the opportunity to help other veterans.