It’s the holiday season, time to enjoy friends and family, honor our traditions and give thanks. November means we honor our veterans and their service to our great nation. We are thankful for our Marine Corps veteran April W. April leveraged her military logistics training to secure a role at Keika Ventures. Her experiences abroad in Iraq and Afghanistan make any challenge she faces in our Garner warehouse small in comparison. Welcome home April, thanks for your service and for being on the KV Team. Please enjoy this profile written by Noelia Arteaga, a sophomore journalism student at Northeastern University, of April as she shares some of the stories behind her grit and can-do attitude.
“After the military, I was seeking employment that has meaning. I wanted more than just a job. I can’t speak for all vets, some miss the camaraderie and mission. Others may be seeking redemption or a need to balance this cosmic karma for following orders they didn’t always agree with. I don’t know. All I can say is any meaningful work, if you can find it, is a four leaf clover,” said April during a break from preparing shipments in Keika Ventures’ Garner, NC warehouse. She joined Keika Ventures in July 2019. It was a different world then. Just about the time she learned the job and got into an operating rhythm, a global pandemic changed everything.
“You have to laugh in bad times,” April said, sitting in her apartment where she lives with her 16-year-old son, Hayden. “I’ve always laughed the most in the worst times… right now, society refuses to laugh. This is the time when we need that the most.”
April is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran. As a sergeant in the Corps, she specialized in logistics with supervisory skills during her seven month deployment in Iraq.
April enlisted at 17, but because she had not finished high school, she was put in what is called the delayed enlistment program. During this time, she had to take all the classes she would have taken in high school, obtain elective credits by working at a flower shop, and receive P.E. credits through her recruiter, which was more demanding than a traditional P.E. class. But that didn’t phase her.
“I ended up graduating a couple months earlier than my class,” April said with a smile.
Before getting “sucked” into military life, as April describes it, she aspired to become a novelist and investigative journalist. However, to “get the hell out of Oregon,” enlisting seemed like her best option.
“I grew up poor. I don’t want to say ‘poor’ because, since leaving Oregon, I’ve seen true poverty. But I was just living a dead-end kind of life,” she reflected.
Like many veterans, April had trouble landing a job upon returning, leading her to opt for the only option she had as a contractor in Afghanistan. April’s story highlights some of the challenges veterans face amidst transitioning back home.
“When I first got back, my family really hated it because they thought that when I got back, some invisible spirit was going to envelop me, and I was going to turn back to who I was before [I left for deployment]. Which to me is bizarre.”
Her confusion was not unwarranted; she questioned how a person could witness all that happens in a warzone and not be affected by it all.
“Sometimes they act like they feel sorry for me. And I hate that because I hate the feeling of people feeling sorry for me.”
In the military, April obtained powerful and eye-opening insights that everyone can learn from. She reminisced about an old roommate who was a scout sniper who witnessed some horrible events. Her roommate, confiding in April, explained he was torn up by what happened, using alcohol to cope. He asked April if it was right to be that torn up.
“Think about it: if you went and did some of the stuff they did and you came back the same way, not changing a bit, not bothered at all, I would kind of distance myself from that person,” she said. “He never thought about it like that.”
April compared it to a person changing from the way they acted as a teenager to the way they act when they are 30. People always change which is healthy, April mused.
With life challenges, coping mechanisms can take over. However, April believes there are right and wrong ways to take on life.
“There’s a lot of ways for people to react. It depends on what they went through. It also depends on how they were raised. Some people were raised that reacting at all isn’t okay,” she said.
This circles back to April’s emphasis on laughter.
“I remember being in Iraq and we were on a convoy at night. The driver got lost, and the convoy commander got pissed so they started arguing. It got so bad that the convoy commander stopped the truck in the middle of the desert. There were no towns, it was in the middle of the night in the middle of the desert. [The convoy commander] got out, and they argued in front of the humvee.”
“This isn’t very smart…if there’s some suspicious [thing] in the road in front of you, you can’t see it. You know how people get that gut feeling [of something could go wrong]? I didn’t really get a gut feeling which is why I knew that wasn’t my time. So I just started laughing and the rest of [the people on the humvee] started laughing too.”
She chuckled to herself and continued reminiscing. “So, we’re just like ‘okay, like when is it going to come?’ When we’re like ‘this is our time right? Should we do the Lord’s prayer?’ So, we just started laughing. Real hard. Just like [making fun of] those guys.”
Eventually, April and everyone in the humvee safely found their way to their destination.
“You must laugh. Take life one disaster at a time.”
Of course, now April is part of a team with a real world mission, the kind of meaningful work vets are looking for – the sort of job she once said you have to “get lucky” to find.
We are helping people clean up their air and water and shipping environmental testing equipment all over the world. We provide safety training for thousands of military and civilian clients. Keika is a mission first, people-always kind of team. The similarities to her military service are not lost on April.
“This [mission] feels pretty important. Especially during these crazy times. The pandemic makes our jobs very challenging, but I am on a great team and this group is a source of strength. We come together to get things done.”