Call of Duty Endowment has placed 50,000 vets in life-changing jobs

Kaylah Jackson
October 23, 2018 - 4:50 pm

(Photo courtesy of Call of Duty Endowment)

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After serving in the Marines and Army Reserves, Elliott McKenzie struggled to find his new identity as a civilian. From dropping out of college, experiencing homelessness, then eventually landing a job with the help of the Call of Duty Endowment, his transition was a balance of highs and lows.

Like many veterans, adjusting from the high tempo and hyper-aware environment from deployments was a challenge. In a place like Ramadi, Iraq where McKenzie kept his head on a swivel at all times, he didn’t face the same threat when he went home.

“Even as something as simple as driving down the street and seeing a piece of trash on the ground -- because in Iraq that piece of trash could be a roadside bomb and that could blow up and kill you,” said McKenzie “All of the sudden you’re having an anxiety attack in your car on the freeway because you saw a huge piece of trash on the freeway.”

McKenzie says there’s a whole “stockpile” of issues that veterans are hit with when they step out of a life in uniform.

“I dealt a lot with PTSD, depression, and anxiety and so I spent a number of years trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, where I wanted to go, who I was, what my future entailed for me,” said McKenzie.

From 2007 to 2015, he spent time trying to make a future for himself. He started using his G.I. bill to attend Mt. San Antonio College in California but in McKenzie’s words, “the PTSD got to me.” As a result, he ended up dropping out of school and living in his car. It would be three years of finding himself before McKenzie got to a point of effectively managing his PTSD and anxiety, finding transitional housing, and a stable job.

Unfortunately, like McKenzie, many other veterans face a similar problem of finding their footing right after leaving the service. A joint study done by the Call of Duty Endowment and ZipRecruiter found “Veterans have shorter job tenure at first but longer job tenure overall.”

This proves the idea that the process of transition isn’t a single solution or event—it’s an evolution that doesn’t start and end with a military discharge. Organizations like the Call of Duty Endowment and Hire Heroes understand that philosophy and helped McKenzie secure a meaningful job where he now gives back to the veteran community.

For Navy veteran and Call of Duty Endowment Executive Director, Dan Goldenberg, getting veterans hired is about placing them in careers that improve their quality of life, not simply adding another title on their resume.

(Photo courtesy of the Call of Duty Endowment)

The Endowment, created by video game developer Bobby Kotick, places veterans in meaningful careers by providing grants to other organizations that prepare veterans for the civilian workplace. The endowment analyzes data like average starting salary, retention on a six to nine-month scale, and part-time versus full-time work when choosing organizations to fund. Often, these resources are able to offer more specialized guidance to veterans, something the military’s own transition program struggles to offer.

“You can’t put a hundred Marines in a classroom with one contractor pushing PowerPoint slides and expect them to be ready, they’re not. They’re given a sort of 101 class and get sent to the woods,” says Goldenberg.

Two of those handpicked organizations, U.S.VETS, and Hire Heroes USA helped McKenzie reintegrate to find a meaningful job.

With U.S.VETS, McKenzie meets with veterans who were in his shoes—finding themselves again and looking for employment. Whether it’s a simulating a job interview, financially supporting veterans with gas cards or a suit for a job, McKenzie acts almost as an unofficial counselor for his veterans clients.

“I understand the urgency that comes when you’re broke and you have no money and you need a job like yesterday because you’ve got six different bills that you’re supposed to be paying and if you don’t, you’re gonna get evicted, your phone is gonna get turned off, your electricity is gonna get turned off and your anxiety is through the roof,” said McKenzie.

Recently, McKenzie created an opportunity for veterans in the Los Angeles area seeking employment with the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD). Through his own planning, he set up a system that covers initial equipment and uniform costs for military veterans who to graduate from the LAPD academy.

"I felt like this job is perfect for me because of the fact that I’ve been where every single one of these people is,” McKenzie.

McKenzie is just one of the thousands of veterans the Call of Duty Endowment has impacted. This month, the endowment reached new heights after meeting their goal of placing 50,000 veterans in high-quality jobs. Keeping in line with their mission, the endowment now hopes to place 100,000 more veterans by 2024.

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