School helps veterans find post-military careers

Posted at 6:19 PM, Apr 22, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-22 21:19:21-04

A group of veterans graduated from a specialty school Friday and are now ready for their post-military careers.

The Barrio Logan-based nonprofit school Workshops for Warriors helps vets transition into manufacturing jobs, and there are now 45 veterans eager to join the workforce.

Graduate Ryan Palmer, a former Navy corpsman, said, "I was a combat medic for the Marine Corps."

He was hands-on with all the horrors of combat during his two tours in Afghanistan. The unwavering bond he shared with his Marines helped him to stay focused on the mission.

"They were my friends," he said. "They were my brothers."

Palmer has a tattoo that reads: "Never Forget March 18th, 2013."

They were on home soil that day.

"There was a training incident … a mortar tube got double fed and exploded," Palmer explained.

He was the first to respond to his friends.

"I went from patient to patient, triaging them and treating them," he said.

He saved eight, but he lives with the weight of the seven he could not save.

"You feel like it's your fault," he added.

He got out of the military and went to medical school to become a doctor. The second anniversary of the explosion made his PTSD flare up.

"Things started to fall apart," Palmer said.

With no support system nearby, he flunked out.

"It brought me to the lowest point in my life," he added. "I mean, I had thoughts of suicide and whatnot and just thought it'd be easier. I went home and grabbed one of my guns. I went down the road, and I was sitting in my truck and I was contemplating doing it."

The police kept him from killing himself that day, but he credits Hernán Luis y Prado with saving his life.

Prado is also a former Navy corpsman, and he was sick of losing more friends to suicide than bullets and bombs. That is why he founded Workshops for Warriors.

"[It's] giving veterans a second chance," Palmer said.

After four months of machining and welding training, Palmer already has a number of job offers.

More importantly, that sense of brotherhood is back.

"They've been through what I've been through," he added. "It's nice to feel that bond again."

This year, Workshops for Warriors expects around 140 veterans to graduate at no cost to the vets.

They say there is a 94 percent success rate in landing a job.

Click here to learn more about Workshops for Warriors.