Patch recently sat down with Afghanistan veteran Kevin Hargrave, 49, of Rosedale as part of a series, Maryland Vets: Jobs Wanted, which looks at the challenges of veterans who return from war and face a tough job market.
It's one veteran's story of transition.
Hargrave, a father of five, escaped a life of selling drugs in east Baltimore to join the Marines, and now he believes he has achieved the American Dream -- a dream he clings to while coping with everyday realities, including that of having a 15-year-old daughter who is paralyzed from the waist down after a hit and run accident in Halethorpe Aug. 24, 2011.
He is now a correctional captain in Maryland, but he said he's hoping to retire in order to funnel a portion of the retirement benefits to his ex-wife, the mother of his injured daughter. He is trying to get a job in D.C. corrections or elsewhere, he said.
What was your childhood like, growing up in Baltimore?
I’m the seventh child in a family of eight, and my mother died when she was 39. I joined the Marine Corps in 1980. I needed to get out of Baltimore. Before I left home, I was a runner for a family who sold marijuana 24/7.
Why did you decide to join the Marines? There was a commercial of a silent drill team. I wanted to be 'one of the few, one of the proud.' It made me want to wear that uniform, be that person.
You served in Afghanistan in 2007, training Afghani police officers as part of the U.S. Army. Was that your toughest assignment in the military? Absolutely. The [Afghani] police are fearless, because they really don’t know the danger. Their police vehicles are regular pickup trucks with the police markings. So the main person they use to provide security is totally unsecured. I felt sorry for them. Here I am, in a totally armored vehicle, that still can be destroyed.
Your daughter, Helen Hargrave, was severely hurt in a hit and run accident in Halethorpe in August of 2011. Has her situation intensified your search for a new job? Most definitely. The jobs I’m competing for are unique and of a management level. I have to compete for higher pay. She’s still paralyzed below the waist.
With these challenges, do you still think you’re living the American dream? I actually do. I haven’t missed a paycheck in over 32 years. I’ve never been without health care my entire life.
How has your military training helped you cope with your daughter’s accident? I could’ve came home and said, ‘I’m going to drink myself in sorrow.’ That’s not going to help my child. She’s going to need all the resources she can get. When bad things happen, the military teaches you how to cope. It teaches you how to manage difficult situations.
See other stories in our series on Maryland veterans searching for jobs and opportunities: