This article is part of a series focusing on individuals who dedicate their careers to serving the public in honor of Public Service Recognition Week.
Jordan Garza is a former corrections officer and police officer who has been in public service with various government agencies for over 10 years. He currently serves as the Disabled Veterans Outreach Program Specialist for the State of Ohio at the Office of Workforce Development. In addition, Jordan is an Ambassador for American Military University.
What inspired you to pursue this career?
Growing up in an economically disadvantaged family, I experienced first-hand the challenges and struggles families face. At a young age, I knew I wanted to help others who struggled financially and educationally. I also wanted to help people who were negatively involved with the justice system.
What do you wish you knew before going into this field?
I wish I’d known how difficult it would be to help everyone I would encounter. I didn’t realize that there would be so many people who didn’t want help, didn’t want to change, or are dependent upon drugs, alcohol or government subsidies.
What is the most satisfying and/or enjoyable part of your career?
The most satisfying part of my career has been knowing that I’m able to continue my service to my country, because I’m a veteran myself. I serve veterans and help them overcome the barriers and struggles they face when returning home.
Is there a moment or incident that you reflect upon fondly as being highly representative of why you pursued this career in the first place?
In 2009, I was separated from the U.S. Army due to an injury I sustained while I was on active duty. My military career ended at the drop of a dime due to three fractured vertebrae, two ruptured discs and a traumatic brain injury.
In addition to my military career, my civilian career in law enforcement ended due to my injuries. Upon returning home, I dealt with the physical injuries I sustained and also the emotional struggles.
I lost my purpose and my drive. I no longer had a mission to carry out. I felt that I failed my brothers and sisters as I hung up my uniforms, and I felt that I failed my children.
After reevaluating my situation, I decided to pursue my education in sports and health science to learn how to physically rehabilitate myself. In 2012, I had surgery and made a full recovery as I completed my degree program. During my career endeavors, I decided to pursue a career in public service so I could work with other veterans going through the same struggles that I faced.
How does (or what) impact does your work have on American citizens?
My commitment to serve, protect, support and defend the American people directly impacted and improved the lives of many people in my community. I helped over 100 veterans find meaningful careers outside the military.
I’ve helped reduce veterans’ unemployment by 5.6% in Ohio and national veterans’ homelessness by 33%. I’ve assisted veterans in accessing their medical and educational benefits while they overcome the difficult challenges they face.
I provide justice outreach services to veterans to avoid unnecessary criminalization when veterans suffer from mental illness and substance use disorders. I ensure that they have timely access to Veterans Health Administration services. I have also had the opportunity to work with over 400 criminal offenders within a tri-county area and helped them become more productive, successful members of society.
What advice would you give others pursuing a similar career?
Expect the unexpected. Not every day will be a success story; not every client will want your help. Remain focused on your mission and help those that you can.
How has the university assisted you in your current position?
Even though a bachelor’s degree in sports and health science was not a requirement for my current position, a bachelor’s degree was required. I’m able to use my education to recognize injuries that clients suffered from combat, allowing me to provide a more thorough description of the injury/medical condition they face. Having this education allowed me to better understand and explain veterans’ injuries, resulting in more successful claims accepted by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
I understand the physical and mental barriers of the veterans I work with. That has helped me with assessing their needs and creating their educational and career goals.
Did your classroom experience and prompts prepare you for your role in this field?
I have been in my current role for 2.5 years. In that time, I have been nominated and given awards by the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Lucas and Ottawa County Veterans Service Commission and the Lucas County Municipal Court. Other nominations and awards came from the Disabled American Veterans, the Ohio Department of Veterans Services, the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services, the Department of Labor, and the Department of Justice.
I can honestly say that I would not be as effective in my current role without my degree from American Military University. Answering the questions asked by my fellow students in regard to my classroom forum posts allowed me to research beyond my initial assessments. I was able to explain it in a way that was easy to understand and highlighted pertinent information
Read more about Jordan’s career: