A cheerful new face is assisting with electrical issues at the Walla Walla VA. Many have been helped by Curtis May (pictured above) and his technical skills.

May grew up in Merced, Calif. After graduating from high school in 1978, he joined the Air Force and was stationed at Fairchild AFB. He trained and worked as an exterior electrician and powerline specialist. He was responsible for operating, maintaining, and repairing the base’s power grid and runway lights. Of his four years in the Air Force, May says he “received great training and experience” in an occupational field he loved.

After his four-year stint in the Air Force, May became an automotive drivability technician for the Dodge Corp. His area of specialty was resolving computer diagnostic problems. He worked with Dodge until 2002 when events in his life came to a head.

When May’s father died, he began turning to substances to cope with the loss. “I ended up in a little trouble.” In truth, he says, he began to experience “a whole bunch of trouble.” In addition to losing his job, he lost his marriage and family, ended up homeless and had frequent interactions with the justice system.

“She gave me the opportunity to improve my life.”

While he was in jail he found hope through Walla Walla VA when he was contacted by a Veterans Justice Outreach employee.

Rhonda Strother got me the help I needed

“I want to give some very special thanks to Rhonda Strother,” he says. “She was my first contact with VA and got me help. I had had enough. I was tired and hated my lifestyle and she got me the help I needed. She gave me the opportunity to improve my life. I was living in the Tri-Cities at the time and moved to Walla Walla for a new start.”

In 2014, May entered the Residential Rehabilitation Unit at VA and upon completion, entered the Grant Per Diem (GPD) program, which provides transitional housing for homeless Veterans.

He started school at Walla Walla Community College, entering their Electrical Systems Technology program. Two years later, May had moved from GPD to HUD/VASH (subsidized housing for homeless Veterans).

He was also enrolled in the Compensated Work Therapy (CWT) program and could use the hours he worked in the program towards completing his associate’s degree which he received in 2017.

Curtis May

Curtis May

Upon completing the CWT program, May volunteered as an electrician at Walla Walla VA and applied for a vacant electrical position and was eventually hired.

May is very humble when asked about his success. “I had a lot of help along the way,” he says. “I am highly grateful to the VA and all the support services they provided me. I wouldn’t be here without them. They helped me get my dream job”.

May’s tenacious – “I kept at it until I got it” – attitude, which he tends to dismiss, was another important key to his success.

Curtis states, “Because of VA, I was able to re-establish relationships with my children and grandchildren. I was able to help my estranged teenage son who lived with me until he graduated from high school, and is currently employed and living on his own.”

Regarding his current situation, Curtis says, “I am very happy and grateful.”

  Linda Wondra is the Public Affairs Officer at the Walla Walla VA Medical Center.


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Published on Dec. 7, 2018

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