Steven Thelusma is a Purple Heart recipient. He never imagined himself having the honor of being decorated with such a prestigious award. These thoughts weren't at the forefront of his mind when he was sworn into the U.S. Navy in January 2009. During his stint, Steve served in three tours (twice in Afghanistan, once in Japan for tsunami relief) overseas. Now, he shows his heart of gold through volunteering, mentoring, and community service.
Steve is one of over 21 million veterans in America. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a 4.6% veteran unemployment rate for 2015. However, not every veteran is experiencing the same success despite high-caliber attributes. Read about Steve's experience and advice for fellow vets re-entering the labor market:
Q: What's your best memory of serving?
Steve: A lot of things come to mind. First, I've got to say raising my right hand and swearing to defend the Constitution. You remember the camaraderie and the bonds you build with people while you're in, especially while you're deployed.
Q: What are the best lessons you learned during your time in the U.S. Navy Seabees?
Steve: Definitely sharpened my leadership skills. Leading by example. Humility. Learning to be more humble.
I learned a deeper appreciation of what we have here in America, especially compared to other places in the world. Really appreciating the freedoms that we have.
I also learned that pain is most times weakness leaving the body. It's just a mindset.
Q: What advice do you have for veterans re-entering the workforce?
Steve: Have a plan A, plan B, and plan C because plan A usually doesn't go how you'd imagine. Are you looking to go to school or get your career started? Define your options. It's better to have something and not need it than need it and not have it.
Have a good financial foundation to make decisions. Dig in to your resources. Ask senior leadership for guidance. They have a lot of good advice that can point you in the right direction.
Do a lot of research online. There are so many powerful resources online that don't cost you anything. Get in touch with your local Fleet & Family Center at your main base. They have a great variety of resources you can utilize. In addition, try your nearest Veterans Affairs Office for direction. There is plenty of valuable information about career paths and benefits.
Transitioning into civilian life, take it one step at a time. Be patient with yourself. Not everyone will understand you. So, be the bigger person and try to understand others first. Don't be afraid to reach out for help at the VA Hospital. They're gradually getting better.
Find something that you love to do. Let that be a getaway.
About Steven Thelusma
Hometown: Boston, MA (by way of Port-au-Prince, Haiti)
Years of Service: 2009-2015
Hobbies: reading, traveling, sports, the outdoors, entrepreneurship, and mentoring the youth.
Steven Thelusma is a Business Development Manager in the Boston tech and entrepreneurship scene. He makes a brutally-long commute everyday across horrendous traffic. Steve values the entrepreneural mindset; he seeks opportunities for self-growth, networking, and professional development. In addition, he cannot say no to Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.
Have more questions for Steven? Get in touch with him on LinkedIn.
Read more about veterans' perspectives and why they can help your team:
- Military Uniform to Business Suits: Positive Traits Veterans Possess
- Lessons Recruiters Can Take From the US Army