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Iraq War Veteran Finds New Career in Weatherization

April 9, 2010 - 2:50pm

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An Army veteran who served in Iraq has found a new career weatherizing homes for poor residents.

When Mike Flaherty of Newburgh, Ind., left the military in 2006 after five-and-a-half years and two deployments to Iraq as a petroleum supply specialist, he had limited “marketable skills” for the civilian job market, he says.

Flaherty’s Army career brought him to Colorado Springs, Colo., where he stayed after fulfilling his military duties. While taking a break from studying at Pike’s Peak Community College last spring, he was recruited to join the first wave of weatherization training by the non-profit Veterans Green Jobs.

Funded by the Recovery Act, Veterans Green Jobs provides weatherization services for low-income residents in Colorado. 

After completing his training, Flaherty worked as a crew member weatherizing homes in the six county region of San Luis Valley. He was promoted to crew leader and is now a weatherization coordinator for Veterans Green Jobs.  Flaherty says he still travels to job sites; ensuring crews have everything they need to finish their projects

The Denver-based nonprofit is hiring 100 new employees to take on work related to weatherization and energy efficiency. Flaherty says for veterans, green jobs and training programs provide “hands to catch them when they get back” to civilian life.

“I think it would be great for veterans to lead the way in the emerging clean energy,” he adds.

After serving in the military, weatherization work provides a positive, more  restorative departure, Flaherty says. “It’s therapeutic, from that standpoint.”

Over a third of the population in San Luis Valley lives below the poverty line. Temperatures range from 90 degrees in the summer to 30 degrees below zero in winter.  Making homes energy efficient can save poor residents big money during those months of extreme weather.  “You’re literally changing the way people live on a daily basis,” Flaherty says.

He lives in Alamosa County, within the Valley, and says weatherization clients in the area appreciate the improvements.

“They tell you how thankful they are that they can sleep in a warm home.” 

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