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Transitioning Soldiers From the Battlefield to the Classroom

Young Government Leaders (YGL) and GovLoop present the NextGen Public Service Awards for superior public service and achievement. The 4th Annual NextGen Public Service Awards will be given at the 2014 NextGen Award’s Ceremony, which will kick off the NextGen Training Summit on July 23rd in Washington, DC. We have 18 finalists in six different categories. All month long we will be introducing you to the finalists.

Meet the Finalist:

Who: Megan Raphael, Education Services Specialist for the Warrior Transition Project

Achievement: NextGen Public Service Award Finalist, Courage Award Category

“Megan is a humble spirit yet shows so much love in what she does. Megan possesses an indomitable spirit of wanting to make a world where there is nothing but hope, love, faith, thriving, and reaching new unexplored possibilities. Megan is worlds apart when it comes to envisioning the possibilities of tomorrow. Megan is family oriented and at the same time people oriented. Her love and devotion to doing a great job hinges on making sure people are able to imagine a better world because of their contribution to making it better.” – Walter Leverette, Pastoral Counselor, Naval Medical Center San Diego. Leverett nominated Raphael for the NextGen Public Service Award.

“My job is tending to the soldiers who are wounded, ill or injured,” said Raphael. “Soldiers currently on medical are sent to the Warrior Transition Unit.

“They are at a critical point where they have to decide if they are staying in the US Army or not. I help them prepare for the different tracks, if they’re going back to the Army, to assist them in an educational goal, their new career focus,” said Raphael.

Transitioning soldiers from the battlefield to the classroom can be a huge challenge. “Service members have a huge skillset, but when they are looking at the job market and at what is required, they need some additional skills. But they need to know how valuable their training already is. By combining the educational goals and all their different military skills together, it makes it for like an easier transition for them into the civilian life.”

Although her job can be mentally and emotionally exhausting, Raphael sees its power to help heal. “My field has always been in the helping profession. I get to see the successes and I get a firsthand look at soldiers who have actually been able to regain their passion out in the civilian life.”

For many military families the soldier is only half of the equation – the other half is the spouse. Raphael volunteers at a marriage retreat to help couples separated by service get back in touch with each other and work out some of their issues.

“I get to help couples reengaging and reintegrating into the relationships. If you’ve ever been to a marriage retreat, you known it’s not always positive stuff comes out, but the responses from the actual couples who were able to reintegrate and work on some of those difficulties are inspiring,” said Raphael.

Seeing those couples reconnect and soldiers move forward in their lives is what makes Raphael so driven. “ I get to build a really strong rapport and relationship with the soldiers. I get to have down to earth conversations and really get to know the families and the soldiers who I work with. That is so rewarding.”

For Raphael her job hits close to home -- her husband is an active duty Marine. “I am a military spouse. I understand. When I was new to the military lifestyle, I saw firsthand the deployments, the reintegration and adjustments that the families had to make. I was able to connect my understanding to my career interest, and it just made sense. I love what I do.”

We will be talking to all the NextGen Public Service Award finalists in the upcoming weeks. See the full list here. And register for NextGen!

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