Support our mission

WASHINGTON — Tristan Wyatt never saw himself working in computers, but he was willing to try anything after losing his right leg in a firefight Iraq.

“I saw myself as a career Army guy,” the retired corporal said. “Now I’m working in cybersecurity. I didn’t even know it existed a few years ago.”

Wyatt’s training and employment came through the Vet IT program, created by the Department of Veterans Affairs to provide vocational training, employment experience and job placement to wounded troops looking for post-military careers.

On Monday department officials promised to make that program available to any servicemembers recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, and offer temporary jobs in Washington, D.C. in their new fields.

Secretary of Veterans Affairs Jim Nicholson called the new initiative an opportunity for the injured veterans to get on with their lives.

“The goal is to expose these servicemembers to new opportunities and support them in mentoring and training in the [information technology] field,” he said. “Despite their injuries and disabilities, they’re ready to take their place in the workforce.”

So far 35 patients already have gone though the program, and 15 have received permanent jobs with the department. Officials said several others have worked temporarily for the department and used those skills to find private-sector jobs in their home states.

Jennifer Duncan, who manages the Vet IT program, said program administrators meet with the injured veterans to assess their interests and skills. In many cases counselors help with employment basics like composing a resume or buying a suit appropriate for interviews.

Retired Army Staff Sgt. Matt Braiotta, who received shrapnel wounds while serving in Iraq in October 2003, said when he was medically retired he worried this lack of non-military work would keep him from finding a good job. Today, he is a budget analyst with the department.

“I just didn’t have the credentials to get a job any other way,” he said. “This was really a chance to try something different, without worrying about that.”

The program was created with young veterans in mind, but open to all patients at Walter Reed. Eric Franklin, a 41-year-old Navy veteran recovering from cancer at the facility, said few well-paying jobs were open to him after his 20-year military career ended.

“When you come out of the military with any disability, private industry is going to be hesitant to hire you,” he said. “You’re left working jobs that just barely pay the bills, and I have three kids and a mortgage.

“Now, I’m working with the National Cemetery Administration. And it’s not just a job. It’s a chance to give back and serve my country again.”


Stripes in 7



around the web


Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up