My name is Drew Adams. I joined the Army in 1985 as a Reservist initially in Air Defense Artillery. I signed up under the GI Bill because it was one of the only opportunities for me to be able to attend college without taking on massive amounts of debt - my family was hard working, but we were also poor at the time and just starting to get ahead. When I attempted to attend college, I found out that I wasn’t really ready yet - my first semester I received the lowest marks possible for 12 hours of schooling - something that would haunt me for the rest of my undergraduate life. I sat out several semesters, bouncing around from community college to undergraduate schools. After several years I switched over to Military Police and shortly after that I was activated for Operation Desert Shield / Desert Storm. While at Fort Hood, I was very very lucky to have fallen under the wing of a man named JC Culver. Myself and two others were selected to be Military Police Game Wardens. JC took direct interest in us and helped push us in the right direction; as a result, I worked a lot with the civilian wildlife biologists because I’d been wanting to go back to school to be one - science has always been a natural strength. When I finally got out of active duty and was also released from the reserves, I was ready to attend school.
Unfortunately for me, the GI Bill I had worked so hard for was gone. No one took the time with me to help me understand that I only had 4 years after basic training to use it.
As a result of my service in support of a wartime campaign, I did receive great healthcare benefits - however no one ever really told me how to get them. The paperwork given to me during my ETS was difficult to read due to the legal-ese and government-ese that flooded it. No one really seemed to have a cohesive feel for what I actually had in the form of benefits - I only found out piece by piece. As far as my experience in the Army, I found that most employers didn’t give me a second look when they saw “Reservist” - that means they lose me for many months potentially every year. While technically this is illegal, as long as they didn’t say this out loud they would never be penalized. Finally after graduating with an undergraduate degree 11 years after getting out of High School I really began to get my bearings and advanced my career in Technical Operations over the last decade to several senior management / Director roles. I made the decision to go back to Graduate School and get my MBA - a very fateful decision. While there, I would take many jobs overseas working in the Middle East as a consultant during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Once I’d advanced myself both monetarily and professionally I moved to Mexico to finish out my MBA via online coursework and learn about the Scuba Industry. Again - I was amazingly lucky. I picked Aldora Divers for my training. They are some of the most professional divers I have met in the industry and my instructor Liang took great interest in my professional advancement. Living in Mexico would be one of the most favorite times of my life. After leaving Mexico I quickly graduated with my MBA and began to work full time again. While extremely happy with where I ended up (given that when I started my career in the Army I was nothing but a kid that grew up in a cotton field in West Texas) - I knew that I took me too long to get all the pieces in place. I felt like that if someone had taken a personal interest in me that knew the strengths that the military gives you and the benefits I had qualified for, that I’d have been able to get a lot further a lot faster than I did.
Dealing with the myriad of Government entities feels like a lot of work considering you already gave almost everything just to get the things you were promised when you entered the service. Because of these things, I decided then to form VeterHands - a not for profit specifically meant to help Veterans departing the service to get job certifications and skills that are VA approved - also during that time I’d focus on helping the veterans we worked with to understand their benefits and make the most use of them. I know the best thing I can do is make a motivated person who gets full use of their benefits and understands what they can do and how they can apply the skills they receive in order to advance themselves. I’m not interested in handouts. I want to start a movement of educated and motivated veterans who know how to get ahead and are willing to teach and show others how they can too.
PADI works very well in this effort - Recreational diving came from the military. The training courses (especially ones after the basic open water courses) are very military like in feel and presentation. Any veteran will quickly fall into the groove because they’ve completed many courses in the military with similar presentation style. Also the GI bill and other veterans job assistance programs will help pay for the coursework in many cases - so its a very natural fit; however, not one that anyone will ever tell you about getting out of the military. VeterHands fills that gap and I’m very excited to have gotten it this far - with the help of many good people and specially the law office of Orrick, Herrignton and Sutcliffe in San Francisco, CA who assisted with the incorporation and application for the 501c3 IRS certification.
We’re now ready to start off with our inaugural operations and we’re sending two combat veterans from the Marines down to Aldora in Cozumel to get their professional certifications and months of on the job experience.
I would like to thank everyone that has helped bring this together and I’m excited about the new chapter about to unfurl in front of us.
Lets do good..