Senior Content Marketing Manager, USO
One veteran’s story shows how transitioning into civilian life can be complicated without help.
After 24 years of service and three deployments to the Middle East, then-Army Sgt. 1st Class Vito DiChristina knew it was time to transition back into the civilian world.
“I have three children [and] they’re all starting high school … it was time to refocus myself back towards my family,” DiChristina said.
Intent on retiring and settling with his family in the El Paso, Texas, area, DiChristina asked to be stationed at Fort Bliss during his final months of service. The only problem was, when it came to actually transitioning out of the military and searching for a civilian job, his personal and professional connections in El Paso were limited.
Fortunately, while participating in Soldier For Life, the army’s transition program, he stumbled upon USO El Paso’s then-temporary Pathfinder location. “They said, ‘Hey, do you need help with your resume,” DiChristina said. “They got me in touch with Mr. [Genaro] Lopez, who was my counselor during my transition process.”
Over the course of several months, DiChristina worked with Lopez, now the Pathfinder site manager in El Paso, to develop a comprehensive transition plan to jump-start his civilian life. In particular, Lopez helped DiChristina navigate his retirement benefits, discover educational opportunities and find potential job leads. “He was a retired military guy, so he instantly had credit with me,” DiChristina said.
Now comfortably employed, DiChristina is glad to see his experience is valued. “I’m no longer part of the Army team anymore … but knowing that there’s an organization that’s willing to take me on [feels good],” DiChristina said.