Posted by: adrienehill | February 4, 2009

Profile: Dean Kinzer: From War to Work

Dean Kinzer is 29 years old.  He lives in Willowbrook, Illinois.  I spoke to Dean in January.  The transcript below reflects a portion of our conversation. 

This week Dean started a new job.  I’ve posted an update from him at the end of this transcript.

I joined the Army at 21.  At that point Clinton was still in office and it seemed like a reasonable day job.  It seemed like it wasn’t that crazy of a job at that point.  At that point, I was married and I had a daughter on the way and so I was concerned about being able to take care of them and both of them would have health insurance and stuff, so it seemed like a logical place for me to go. 

I ended my tour in Korea and we headed straight to Fort Campbell, Kentucky.  When I got there and arrived at my unit they said, I hope you aren’t planning on staying very long, cause we’re on our way out.  Three months before we took off, I called and broke the news to my then wife.  She said she’d had enough and so that was basically the end of that relationship.  I’d been gone almost two years and she was taking care of our daughter on her own, minus the financial support, so she’d had enough. 

After three months of prepping for war, we flew over to Kuwait.  And basically, that was probably one of the craziest experiences in my life.   It was kind of disorganized and kind of chaotic and we had scud missile attacks and drills. I had never experienced that kind of heat and we always had to be in complete combat garb. So it was really exhausting couple of weeks. And then we crossed the border in March of 03 and fought the initial ground war.  It was the longest 10 months of my life and it seemed like it was never going to end. 

I got out as fast as I could.  From there, I went straight into college.  I went to the College of DuPage for two years and graduated there.  And then I went to Northern Illinois for two years and graduated.  And now I’m currently looking for a career. 

I’ve worked in a warehouse for the past 4 years and I’m kind of fond of it.  Usually the people who work there are kind of blue collar and I’ve always felt, even though I have a degree now, that I’ve always been kind of blue collar.  Being a Sargent in the Army is not a glamorous, pretty job.  I’ve never been afraid to get my hands dirty.   

[I want] a decent salary, some benefits.  I haven’t had health insurance besides the Army…. which is not really like having health insurance… since 1988, when my dad lost his job.   My family has been without health insurance ever since.  Those are the kinds of things that are important to me.   I’d like a job that I can grow in.  I don’t want to work for a company where you become stationary and that’s just kind of your job and you don’t move anywhere, I kind of feel like I could be successful and I’ve always been kind of been successful in whatever I’ve undertaken; so it’s not a reach for me to think I could get promoted and move up the ladder. 

 I work for 11 dollars an hour now.  Which I don’t want to complain about, but I have things to pay for.  I have child support, I have all these things that I have to pay for and it’s really hard to make a living and be able to do anything, even feed yourself, when you are just paying off bills and barely have anything left over.  It’s really caused some strains in my relationship with my girlfriend. It’s made my sister really sacrifice, I live with my sister and she’s really had to sacrifice and help me out as much as she can. 

A lot of times I have to scrap for money.  I have to ask whoever’s around for whatever I can and that’s humiliating.  Nobody wants to do that stuff.  I felt like this would never be a problem again, but it’s really started to creep up with me, the lack of money.   

Update from Dean:

What is your new job?

I am an operations supervisor for a transportation/logistics company.

 How’d you get it?

I created a profile on Career Builder (amongst many other job search sites) and began applying for jobs left and right. After months of applying on Career Builder, out of the blue I received a call from the company that eventually hired me. I interviewed with the company on a Tuesday, and because the interview went so well I accepted their job offer in just a few days. I think a small part of getting the call was because my resume was decent, but I think that for the most part it was luck.

How’s the first week been?

It’s been a little nerve racking. A huge part of me wishes the learning process was over and I was already comfortable in my job. Fortunately I have a really good teacher helping me along, and I seem to be picking up the job more and more each day.

What are your hopes for the new job?

The company I chose to work for is a family owned company. Everyone that I have met has been extremely kind and helpful. I hope that this job leads to jobs further up in the company. It certainly will give me a ton of valuable experience for the future, no matter where it is. I could definitely see myself working at my current job for quite some time.

What advice do you have for people looking for work right now?

My advice would be to pick up some kind of course work while job hunting. I am going to school two nights a week in pursuit of my M.B.A. Take some business classes, or take classes in a field where you want to work. I sent out hundreds of resumes, had a recruiter working for me, asked friends and family for recommendations, posted my resume on Craigslist, and still got little or no contact from employers. I thought it was hopeless but the one thing that kind of kept me going was the fact that even without a “real” job I was still bettering myself.




  1. Dean, you sound like a really great person that’s been through some hard times for way too long–especially for someone who has done so much for our country. It’s so unfair that we live in a world where veterans can be treated like inconveniences, and weak support is offered to “help pick up the pieces” upon their return from a war they may or may not have volunteered for. It seems that things are beginning to work out for you, and you should be proud you’re enrolled in post-graduate work. I hope that your employer, present or future, really sees the value of who you really are. Good luck to you in the future.

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