Watching a veteran take a first step after being confined to a wheelchair — it’s a feeling too breathtaking for words. Knowing that I provide them with the limbs that allow them to take advantage of life again is very gratifying. Their lives change right before my eyes—it’s like they have a renewed sense of purpose.
I work at the VA hospital, where I order prosthetic limbs for vets who have just came back from Afghanistan and Iraq. But that’s just my job description. I also see myself as a professional “friend.” The relationships I’ve built with these men and women are amazing. One veteran will call just to see how I’m doing, even if he doesn’t need anything.
“I read this in the paper today and wanted to tell you about it,” he’ll say. Pointless /stories — they’re the greatest things to him. He’s a disabled vet like I am, and he’s been dealt a tough hand. He /impacts my life in so many ways and doesn’t even realize it.
It feels good to know that I help the people who are closest to my heart, even if it’s just by conversation, like the angry man on the phone who’s upset because he’s gotten transferred five times and just wants someone to talk to. I stop and talk to him. Five hours or 5 minutes of my time—it doesn’t matter. They just want someone to listen. And I love being that person.
I love the military. It’s who I am. The values, ideas—everything. I come from a complete military family. One biological brother and three step-brothers in the military. My father has three brothers, all of which were in the service. Cousins, uncles—it’s just in our blood.
Before, I was a United States soldier. And if it were up to me, I’d still be one. But it wasn’t up to me. I broke my back in basic training. Now, I’m a disabled veteran. It’s unfortunate, but I realize that now I have a different purpose in life, something greater. And I’m so thankful.
Veterans appreciate the simplest things. “I’m so grateful you’re here,” they’ll say. They’re just happy that someone is there for them. It gets me emotional, because they mean so much to me. To some it’s just a job. To me, it’s so much more.
Thank you. That’ s one thing I’d say to each and every vet if I had the chance. Thank you for fulfilling our mission, for keeping us safe, for risking your lives for our freedom. Some might not understand why we’re still at war. But we’re on a mission, and we’re going to complete this mission. That’s how the military works. Hoo-ah!
My purpose? Veteran companionship. I’m already in my dream career at the VA. One day, I hope to be director. This is my passion—helping vets, changing lives. Whether it’s one life or many.
Amanda was at work one day when she got a voice mail from her mother-in-law.
"She told me she was driving to work, looked over and saw my face 'REALLY BIG' on the side of a bus,” says Amanda. "Then she giggled and just kept talking about how cool it was. She couldn’t believe it."
Another time, Amanda was riding to lunch with a co-worker who looked over and saw a billboard with Amanda on it. "I thought she was going to wreck the car. She started screaming, 'Oh my goodness! Amanda—you're on a billboard! I never met anyone on a billboard before!' She was so excited and happy for me that she actually got tears in her eyes."
Since the campaign, Amanda has been promoted and is now a contracting officer. "I am part of the new change that is happening at the V.A., and I am excited to be a part of it." She's also taking online classes to obtain her master's degree in business management.
In addition she's had to undergo another surgery for her back and has another one coming up near the end of this year. But she doesn't let it keep her down. "I try to stay busy and connected. I am happy in this point of my life and can’t wait for the upcoming challenges with my career and family."
Amanda thinks the “Changing Lives” theme connected with so many people because the subjects were all ordinary people leading normal lives. "If I could do it, or he could do it, then people were telling themselves they could do it too."
It's that type of attitude that Amanda tries to live with each and every day. "Both my dad and a professor at RMU told me to never give up on things in life that you want. Reach for the stars and give it everything you have. Enjoy the ride, and when you reach your destination, take that moment to look back at everything you have achieved.
"Life is short, take risks, and enjoy it."