Posted on Wed, Apr. 12, 2006
Marine for Life helps its own

By Jillian Ogawa

For nearly a year after Marine Brendon Frcka returned from Iraq, he struggled to make payments on his truck and cell phone by doing odd jobs for family and friends.

"I was going around to make ends meet," said Frcka, who painted and did landscape work. "You can't really survive with a $300 a week paycheck ... I wasn't trying to live out of my means, there were just some things I needed."

The 23-year-old from Louisville turned to Marine for Life, a program that helps honorably discharged Marines and sailors transition to civilian life through job networking and mentoring. Through the program, Frcka found a stable job with Schwan's, a food service company. He is currently on medical leavebut plans to return to work soon.

"Nowadays, it is hard to find a career job," said Frcka, who served with Military Police Company A based in Lexington. "Marine for Life gets people in that direction of getting the right jobs instead of ones that are going to end."

The program, which started nationwide in 2002 and was revived in Lexington recently, wants to help more Marines and create partnerships with more employers in Kentucky, said Sgt. Gilbert Stubbs of Marine for Life.

About 300 Marines are registered with the Lexington Marine for Life program. Stubbs said he knows of 30 to 35 Marines who received jobs in the last four months through the program. Frcka, for example, said he was offered a job within two weeks of sending his rŽsumŽ through Marine for Life.

About 27,000 Marines leave active duty ever year, Stubbs said.

While Marine for Life is not a job-recruiting firm, the program has a full-time staff networking with local and national employers. Stubbs said 12 employers in the Louisville area and 13 in the Lexington area are registered with the program. The employers include UPS Lexington, G&J Pepsi-Cola Bottling and Kentucky State Police, Stubbs said.

Employers are allowed to post jobs and view rŽsumŽs for free on the Marine for Life Web site, Stubbs said.

Some Marines serve as long as 10 years and lose track of the local job market, Stubbs said, but they have skills that make them ideal employees.

Stubbs said Marines learn leadership and responsibility skills early -- by age 21, many Marines serve as shift supervisors over at least a dozen comrades and direct them in stressful situations, he said.

"The context of responsibility, timeliness, are things that cannot be on a rŽsumŽ, but it is a way of life for us," said Provost Sgt. Jeremy Stasel with Military Police Company A. Stasel used the program to find a contract job last summer.

Sometimes former Marines will find themselves working with other former Marines, which sometimes makes the transition to civilian life easier, Stasel said. Last fall, Stasel found a contract job involving security in Gulf Port, Miss., after Hurricane Katrina. Some of his colleges were former Marine officers.

"It never hurts to have more resources," Stasel said, adding that it creates an advantage of "being informed and being able to succeed beyond the Marine Corps years."