By Joe Kuziel

With so many organizations claiming to assist veterans, I wondered how much they actually helped. I soon found that my skepticism was, in fact, warranted. My struggle was not in finding just any job, but in finding a career that was both rewarding and challenging. As a United States Navy veteran who had served in Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, I used my GI Bill to graduate with a Chemistry degree from the University of North Carolina Wilmington and began my career search. Why was I skeptical of veteran’s assistance programs and organizations? It was in my initial job search and in one of my first interviews that I developed a negative attitude towards so called “assistance”. My interview, while I thought I did well and was even told as much, left little comfort when the harsh reality set in. The hiring manager who scheduled the interview informed me that I had been given the interview for an entry level Chemist position only because of my veteran’s preference, but that the position would be given to another applicant who had more education and was willing to take a pay cut. I wondered why give me a phone interview and then let me drive six hundred miles only to be told a decision had been made before my interview?

After that awful experience, I began an eager search for Veteran assistance. I scoured the web only to find myself lost in endless links to other websites offering job assistance that only led to another link to a mega site where everyone posts jobs. Or worse yet, sites where jobs had been posted but not updated in years. I avoided trying to navigate through the mess by returning to the university website where they had legitimate job postings.

Eventually, I did find a career and began to start a family. Life had other plans for me though. After losing everything in a divorce, I found myself having to start over from scratch. The first thing to do was find gainful employment and I needed help fast. Since I wanted to avoid the tangled web of click here for assistance websites, I walked right into the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7824. I quickly began networking with people who shared common experiences with me. Combat vets seem to be able spot other combat vets and that is how I was introduced to Robin Conrad of Century 21 Realty. Robin then introduced me to Creekside Mortgage, Inc a veteran owned and locally operated small business.

There was no filing out long applications, spending hours taking online personality tests, or submitting documents to a faceless human resource department. The process was simply word of mouth and an interview.

Finally, I had a job with the opportunity of turning it into a career. Everyone at Creekside Mortgage has some tie to military service as either a former service member, spouse, or have family serving. What makes it such a unique place to work is the family like atmosphere. The whole office works as a team. While each person has a specific position we all take ownership and help each other out.

My biggest learning experience with Creekside Mortgage was finding out how easy it is to buy a home and yet how confusing the process can be if you don’t know where to start. Like my job search, navigating websites that claim to have answers can be a daunting task. Educating veterans in how to use their benefits has become my primary responsibility. Each person has a different situation and as such each has questions that are based on their circumstances. Many veterans have been surprised to find they qualify for a VA loan or that the current economic situation is perfect for buying a home.

As veterans it is our responsibility to help each other out. That’s why I want to pay it forward by being a tangible resource. When a veteran contacts me, they will receive an answer, not a faceless web link to nowhere.