Written by: Carly Mattingly

Carly has worked as a Marketing Assistant in the Office of Healthcare Recruitment and Marketing through an internship with the Pathways Program since early 2013. This is her last week with us, and she’s graciously offered to share what she’s learned. Thank you for your commitment to serve Veterans, Carly—we wish you the best in your future endeavors!


On March 25, 2013, I worked my first day as an intern in VHA’s Office of Healthcare Recruitment and Marketing (HRM). My husband had just returned from a deployment and I’d recently returned to school after a long lay-off. To be honest, it wasn’t the most glamorous job, it was half-time and at almost 30, I was taking on the title of ‘intern.’ However, I couldn’t have cared less…I wanted to help Veterans.

Unexpectedly… the Veterans helped me.

Upon arrival on the job, I met my unparalleled and unapologetically Texan boss; Darren Sherrard. He explained to me that, when making money decisions, he weighs all recruitment and marketing efforts in favor of the Veteran. He compared an advertisement to the price of a wheel chair—giving me new perspective on how much of an impact every level of employee at VHA has on the Veterans.

I thought I knew Veterans…my Grandfather, James Patrick Coyle, was a WWII all-star who served in 8 major battles in the South Pacific including the capture of Peleliu Island, with the 1st Marine Division. His sacrifice included severe burns resulting from his job as a fire thrower, as well as PTSD.  

What I didn’t realize was the layers of impressive individuals who build the structure of VHA.

This is what they taught me:

Take a Risk:
Austin, an Army reservist, after returning from his duty in OEF/OIF, flew across the country on his last dollar to make it to a job fair in Las Vegas. Austin accepted the first position he qualified for and while working there, has gone to school and worked his way into the next phase of his career…I couldn’t have respected him more.

Be creative and persistent:
Arthur was laid off in the private sector and volunteered for three years with a Veteran Program until he was able to work his way into an entry-level position—I could relate to that. I switched career fields and worked as an intern after years in a well-paying career field (eh, it is a recession).

Have empathy:
Riah, a nurse, remembered walking down the hall and stopping a Veteran to tie his shoe. Afterwards, she looked up at him and he had a tear running down his face and said thank you…I learned that I do all things better when I get out of my own ego and realize the importance of how my actions affect others.

Find YOUR definition of success:
I met a psychiatrist who had joy that was contagious and radiated how proud she was to see these strong men and woman grow in front of her eyes. I learned that I have built my own definition of success…hers came from seeing a man volunteer in the local VHA after 30 years of not working. She could have retired right then…you knew she felt completely fulfilled.

Finally…follow your passion to VHA or wherever it takes you…
In closing, David Martinez, an Army Veteran, created a video after he, “saw a picture of a guy with two above the knee amputations in a wetsuit and sitting next to a surfboard… this alleviated my fears of coming back from my deployment in Afghanistan maimed.”

“At the time I was apprehensive about my future, these men took life in stride. They had been through so much and had been given the best in medical care that the system could give them. Now these men needed to address the mental and emotional aspects of their recovery and there was nowhere better than the confidence building in learning how to surf. “

It was the perfect environment. I saw how these men were taking to this despite their limitations and excelling at it, healing from it. It gave me hope for my own future and comforted me.” Although it never panned out, David helped one of them follow their passion into filmmaking.

I believe that is my definition of success…Applying your passion and your talents to help inspire others to follow theirs.

This is why VHA needs talented Healthcare Practitioners…help a Veteran…and follow YOUR PASSION to VA.

Apply at VAcareers.va.gov, Volunteer, consider College, or visit VA for Vets.

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Published on Jun. 11, 2014

Estimated reading time is 3.9 min.

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