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From the armed forces to college courses

‎05-16-2014 01:04 PM

How one veteran conquered the daunting transition


As a medevac crew member, Corrie Blackshear’s career identity was built around saving lives in high-stakes situations all over the world.


When a hip-and-back injury in 2004 prevented her from continuing, Blackshear struggled to find a civilian profession that provided the same fulfillment.


“I’d still be serving today if I wasn’t injured,” Blackshear says.


With help from military education benefits, Blackshear since has discovered rewarding work in the civilian world as a pharmacy technician. The path to her new career was fraught with twists, turns and hurdles. It all fell into place, though, when she used Veterans Affairs’ Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program.


Career Arsenal

USAA’s Separation Assessment Tool

USAA has easy-to-use tools, information and community resources to help you make the transition from military to civilian life.


Veterans Benefits Administration

Offers financial and educational benefits for veterans—from home loans and life insurance, to tuition payments


Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment

Two hundred counselors work at 71 military bases to aid transitioning veterans.


Montgomery and Post-9/11 GI Bill Tool

Plug in your active duty service time, military status, and the school you want to attend. The tool reveals the amount of benefits (tuition, housing allowance, and book stipend) available from each program.

The story of Blackshear’s journey from soldier to private sector professional is especially relevant for today’s veterans, who are being affected by troop level reductions.


A struggle

Immediately after separating from the military, Blackshear found work as a civilian employee on the Army post where her husband was stationed.


Even the smallest transitions to civilian life were tricky.


“The hardest part of my first day of work was going into my closet and choosing what to wear,” she says.

Blackshear tapped into the Montgomery GI Bill to pay for online college classes in health care management.


However, maintaining continuity for her studies was frustrating because her husband received permanent change of station orders every couple of years, sending the family from New York to Missouri to South Korea.


A counselor helping Blackshear file disability claims suggested the VA’s Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment program, known as Voc Rehab, but Blackshear never followed up.


Voc Rehab serves veterans with service-related disabilities trying to find work or carve out a new career. Successful applicants are assigned to a counselor who helps secure training, rehabilitation services, vocational guidance, resume writing, and even financial aid for education.


Career transformation

Corrie BlackshearA couple of years ago, when Blackshear and her family moved to Colorado Springs, Colorado, she contacted Voc Rehab. “The VA got me in almost immediately,” she says.


After a series of Voc Rehab assessments to identify her work strengths and skills, Blackshear and a counselor created “a plan for what I wanted to achieve.”


She enrolled in the Pikes Peak Community College’s pharmacy technician program. Today, she’s on the verge of completion. Upon completion of her certification and associate degree, Blackshear says she’ll be “hirable that second” because of the high demand for pharmacy technicians.


Blackshear hopes other veterans looking for a career path after leaving the service will follow her example —whether it’s through pursuing benefits from Voc Rehab, or the Montgomery or Post-9/11 GI bills.


“It’s silly to have the resources out there and not use them,” she says. “If you’re patient and stick with it, the payoffs are huge.”




No Department of Defense or government agency endorsement. 


by Malori ‎05-19-2014 10:27 AM

Awesome article!!  Corrie, you are amazing and one of the people I truly admire.  Thanks for sharing this! :)

by Hazel springs ‎05-19-2014 09:40 PM
Just what I needed to get back on the road with college. It's hard when you have kids and pets, church, and a husband but it's worth it for sure.

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