Catching up with a veteran and hero
Larry Robinson served in the U.S. Army for 21 years and received a Purple Heart after his service in Iraq. He is now an employee at the Tommy Nobis Center in Marietta, Georgia through the AbilityOne® Program, one of the largest sources of employment for people who are blind or have significant disabilities. Larry transferred his military skills to his present job at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In May 2021, Larry received the SourceAmerica® Honor Roll for Veterans Award, which pays tribute to a veteran with a service-related disability who has exhibited outstanding achievement in their work.
SourceAmerica recently caught up with Larry who shared some exciting updates.
Q: How did your friends/family/coworkers react when they heard you received SourceAmerica’s Honor Roll for Veterans Award?
They were all happy for me. I think they were probably just as surprised as I was to receive such an honor. Without the contributions of my friends, family, and coworkers, I would not have gotten this award. So, I just was glad that they could celebrate that “win” with me.
Q: How do you take the skills and discipline you developed in the Army and apply them to your career?
When I went into the Army, I didn’t really care about or even understand discipline. I once had a first sergeant tell me that people join the military because they want to be told what to do. And that’s kind of true – at least for me. To this day, I use that skill as a leader. It’s a balancing of knowing how to follow and lead. Being in the Army has given me great leadership capabilities and the ability to follow.
Q: What are the most fulfilling parts of your current role at the CDC and with the Tommy Nobis Center?
Bringing in the mail is important work because we go to the post offices and pick up the mail, and we don’t know what that mail has in it or what any box contains. So, we bring that mail into our facility and go through every piece of it – run it through scanners, look at addresses and give it all a closer look. If a chemical gets through, we have allowed something to get past us. If we were lax on what we were doing, there could be a lot of unnecessary illness.
Q: Why do you think it is important for employers to hire veterans?
When employers hire veterans, they are going to get a great employee! Veterans come from a place where they must learn very quickly. Employers are going to get a disciplined, fast learner, and someone who is punctual and takes pride in everything they do. Once a veteran gets it in his head that something needs to get done, he or she will work on it until it gets done.
Q: We see you like to run and volunteer with the Wounded Warrior Project. How else do you like to spend your spare time?
I really enjoy spending time with my family. I also barbecue a lot. Being from Tennessee originally, it’s one of those things you just do. I have a gas grill and charcoal grill and I enjoy having family and friends come over for a nice barbecue. I like to listen to all kinds of music – R&B mostly. When you listen to music, it’s like history. You can pinpoint where you were and what you were doing. I also listen to some country music now. The greatest concerts are those where the performers dance and give a show. I remember seeing Prince in California, Tennessee and Minnesota and he puts on a show!
Q: As someone who has been retired from the military for a while, what words of wisdom – career-related or personal - would you share with veterans who have recently returned from active duty?
Before you get out, try to do everything you possibly can to prepare – get reference letters and start working on your resume. If you have anything like a security clearance, make sure you extend that and keep it. Mention it at job interviews and on your resume. Employers will ask if they can call your references. I guarantee you that the person who is your First-class Sergeant may no longer be around. So, it is good to get their personal information. You should also request your military resume; go through it to help you create your civilian resume. Keep in mind that going to interviews may feel different. You may be totally qualified for a job but get a letter back saying you’re great, but the employer chose someone else. Don’t be discouraged. Take advantage of the resources around you. For example, there is a veteran’s group that meets in my area. It’s a great place to help veterans understand that they are not alone in dealing with issues adapting to the civilian life.
There are some veterans who get out of the military, and it goes smoothly. But there are some, like me, where the transition is a rocky road. Do something to keep yourself busy. Spend time with your family. Go workout. Preparation before you walk out that gate is key. Sometimes some things take longer than others, but don’t give up.