James, Store Operations Process Manager and Army Veteran, has spent 4 years with PetSmart and shares with us on Veteran's Day.
The Belonging Program’s “I Belong” Series harnesses the power of empathy through storytelling. This series is intended to give associates a greater sense of understanding, a bridge to gain new perspective, and a way to build connection to each other. To learn more about the “I Belong” Series or to submit your stories, please visit our new Belonging Fetch Page.
On this Veteran’s Day, I am honored to have served and defended the United States of America.
During my time in the U.S. Army, I served in Iraq where we were asked to remove Saddam Hussein from power. Later, he was captured by our forces and found guilty in court for the crimes he committed against his people.
Upon returning from Iraq and leaving the military, one of the most important requirements for me was replacing the camaraderie, family, and support I had while serving. While it was an honor to serve my country, I also chose to serve the Soldiers, Sailors, Air Men, and Marines next to me. We call this “watching each other’s Six.”
Unfortunately, returning home was more difficult than I imagined, as some of the same crimes that occurred in Iraq were happening to me. Through “the stare”, I am reminded that I am seen as a threat because of my skin color. Police officers have pulled me over with guns drawn, while in my military uniform, for going 5 miles over the speed limit. I’ve been asked to leave public facilities. My voice and opinions have been silenced on numerous occasions. There isn’t a day when I can leave the house to run errands and not experience some form of racism.
Many veterans like myself who have honorably served this country are experiencing similar events across this country.
While it hasn't been easy, today, I feel blessed to be work for an organization that values each individual and all the unique parts of who they are. At PetSmart, I know that my background and experiences are embraced, my voice matters, leadership supports me, and I am a part of a team that cares about me enough to watch my “Six.”