Spc. Dan Biskey lost his Plan A when a mine exploded beneath his left foot in Afghanistan a year and a half ago. Those wounds cost him part of his leg and ensured he wouldn't be able to spend a full 20-year career serving in the infantry.
Now the 27-year-old soldier from Gig Harbor is on to Plans B, C and D while he awaits a medical retirement from Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s Warrior Transition Battalion.
He’s among the first “wounded warriors” taking advantage of opportunities to shadow civilian workers in Pierce County’s Department of Emergency Management. Biskey puts in his hours a couple days a week with the county’s radio communications team, learning how to install and maintain equipment for law enforcement officers.
He hopes the experience will yield a few civilian references and a better sense of what he wants to do next. He’s still figuring out the future, weighing college, a job in the private sector or an application to return to Lewis-McChord to work with other wounded soldiers.
“I’ve wanted to keep my options open because you know how hard it is to find a job these days,” Biskey said.
Connecting wounded veterans with job opportunities is one of the main objectives of the Warrior Transition Battalion.
Soldiers arrive there coming to grips with physical injuries or serious mental stress. More than 60 percent of them don’t stay in the Army, program spokeswoman Suzie Ovel said.
While soldiers await a decision on their medical status, the Army aims to get them thinking about careers they might like after leaving the military. Biskey, for example, wrote his first résumé while working in the Warrior Transition Battalion over the past year.
Sometimes soldiers in the battalion are given assignments at the base, or they work with employees at federal agencies. The Pierce County program is a pilot project that Lewis-McChord leaders want to replicate at other warrior transition battalions nationwide, linking veterans with jobs in emergency services.
WORTH THE EFFORT
There are a few kinks to work out, such as coordinating job shifts around the soldiers’ medical appointments. So far, six soldiers are enrolled.
Biskey said the program is worth the effort, just for the sake of exposing veterans to different careers.
“I didn’t know what I wanted to do,” he said. “I wanted to start doing things to give me an idea.”
He spent about an hour Wednesday morning working on a satellite dish atop a mobile emergency communications center with technician George Marciano. Biskey hiked up a ladder at the back of the building, his prosthetic leg peeking out from under his Army uniform.
“It’s good to have (Biskey) here,” said Marciano, himself an Army veteran. “He asks a lot of questions, and he has a can-do attitude.”
Biskey’s not one for self-pity. He likes knowing that his accomplishments competing in athletic tournaments or working off base could motivate other wounded veterans.
He’s headed to Colorado next month for the Warrior Games, where he’ll be one of 12 soldiers competing on the Army’s wheelchair basketball team.
He’d like to tell other wounded veterans, “Hey, look, I got hurt, too. You can still do stuff. I went to the Warrior Games twice, and if I wear pants, people can’t tell.”
He lost his leg on a patrol in Afghanistan’s Arghandab Valley with Lewis-McChord’s 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division. A bomb-sniffing dog, a canine trainer and his squad leader all stepped over the mine unscathed.
“Nobody saw it. There were dead leaves everywhere. No regrets,” he said.
LEARNING TO RIDE
He recovered at a Navy hospital in San Diego, where he received his first prosthetic limb. His daughter, 8-year-old Caidan, took the news the best.
“I’m still daddy to her,” he said.
They used to crawl together before Biskey gained better mobility with his new leg. He has plans to try something more challenging soon.
“It’s just sad now because I can’t – well I probably can, now – teach her how to ride a bicycle. Her mom wants me to do that.”
Adam Ashton: 253-597-8646 firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/military