In September of 1965, following my honorable separation from the US Navy, I remember clearly sitting in the Redondo Beach, Ca offices of General Telephone & Telegraph (GTE) discussing my employment prospects with the HR manager at that time. I was so excited! He was telling me that my qualifications as a former Radioman E3 were excellent, including attending radio school at the US Naval Training Center in San Diego. I was so ready to start my career! Then he delivered the shock that floored me, “we are sorry Mr. Sparks, your DD214 shows a note that indicates you have a disability that is not acceptable to GTE.” That disability at the time was not called PTSD, but the DD214 note was a mental disorder diagnosis by the US Navy. I thought an honorable discharge was all that was necessary to go forward in civilian life and follow my career dreams and educational goals. Thanks to the Western Union Telegraph Company, I did go back to work and the rest is history, and discussed in my book, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story. I achieved my career dream to be a part of the booming telecommunications industry and eventually retired as a highly successful sales and marketing executive following 35 years in the business. I was also able to start my college education and eventually earn a BA degree.
Times have changed for the better in helping veterans with disabilities, and I am so grateful and proud to still be around to see it happen. No veteran who serves his/her country honorably whether in combat or in a support role while in the service should be turned away for a disability! It was GTE’s loss and Western Union’s gain. Thank you Western Union from the bottom of my heart!