We were contacted by the Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) about six months ago, about a possible project for our blog for Labor Day. The PVA is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to help veterans bring meaning and gratification to their career path, even after being injured. Their mission doesn’t stop with veterans. The PVA understands that sacrifice in the military is something that families endure, not just the service member. Katie asked if we would post an interview she had with a former Devil Dog and his wife, who have recently taken advantage of the PVA and a program called PAVE. Edgar and Laura have adjusted to Edgar’s injuries when he was once the primary provider of their family. With a whirlwind of emotions directly following an injury, whether on the battlefield or at home Laura and Edgar struggled to find the balance between caregiver, spouse, and bread winner.
Edgar, an 8 year veteran of the Marines, chose to leave active duty to pursue a job in the oil industry in Texas. He decided that Law Enforcement was the route he wanted to go for a career. Edgar had always been the primary earner for his wife, Laura, and two small children…Until the accident. Edgar was involved in a vehicle accident that left him in a wheel chair…The rest of the story is below. Katie sat down with Edgar and Laura, and together they bring it to you!
Who We Are, What We do
Paralyzed Veterans of America is a congressionally chartered veteran’s service organization that works to maximize the quality of life for members and all people with Spinal Cord Injury/Dysfunction (SCI/D). Paving Access for Veterans Employment (PAVE) provides vocational counseling and job placement assistance to any veteran, active duty service member, spouse or caregiver across the country. Our unique, no-cost program offers assistance with a variety of customized job search strategies that position our clients for success. Through the generous support of both private and public partnerships the program strives to place at least one client per day. Our offices are spread across the country, located in Tampa, Richmond, San Antonio, Chicago, Minneapolis, Long Beach, and New York, the convenience of location is imperative to reach and help veterans nationwide. Operation PAVE celebrated its 10th anniversary this year and has assisted over 5000 veterans.
- Our strategies to accomplishing our mission is:
- To utilize a holistic approach to assist veterans to better understand their abilities, skills and education needed to obtain employment that offers meaning and gratification
- To assist with resume and interview preparation
- To connect PAVE clients with employers
- To propose job leads and networking opportunities between employers and veterans alike
- To connect and follow-up with prospective employers – We never close a case
We sat down for coffee and a chat with Edgar and Laura Machado, who both, have taken advantage of PAVE. Edgar is a Marine veteran, and a quadriplegic. He sustained his injuries two years ago in a vehicle rollover. Laura, his wife, a professional photographer who specializes in maternity and newborn photography. We met in the lobby of the VA hospital in San Antonio, with their two children Julius (5) and Nyema (6). Our questions were short and to the point, in typical Marine fashion, so were Edgars answers.
PVA: Let’s start with the important question first. Do you two drink coffee?
Laura: Yes! Edgar and I drink coffee. Sometimes I feel like that it’s what allows us to function better! We used to both drink about four cups a day, but we’ve cut back.
PVA: And how do you feel about the iced coffee trend? I just can’t get on board with that.
Laura: We both drink it hot but every now and then on a hot, hot day we like it on the rocks! And sometimes we get crazy and add Baileys.
PVA: Laura and Edgar, could you tell me what your lives were like before Edgar’s injury?
Edgar: I was in the Marine Corps for eight years, with deployments to Iraq and Japan, and spent a lot of time in Arizona while we were based in North Carolina. After I left the Marine Corps, I worked in the oil industry in Texas, but right before the accident, we had just moved to a new city and I was planning to be a police officer.
Laura: I was a stay-at-home mom, with our kids. I worked as a photographer part-time, when Edgar was able to be home. I didn’t work much though, because while he was in the Marines, Edgar was deployed, and when he was in the oil field, he worked away from us for a week at a time.
PVA: So among other adjustments, it must have been a big change to just have Edgar HOME all the time after his injury.
Laura: Oh yeah! I was used to having him gone for long periods.
But even though he wasn’t home all the time before the accident, when a military man is your husband, you get used to a certain persona, a certain type of atmosphere where you’re taken care of. And that security was completely gone.
PVA: And how are Julius and Nyema dealing with your injury?
Edgar: At first, they were so young and they didn’t really understand why I couldn’t do certain things with them and why I was in the wheelchair. Now, they’re used to it. They pick up things without me asking them to, and are really helpful.
Of course, they also take advantage of me being in the wheelchair by riding in it with me when they’re tired of walking somewhere!
PVA: How did your family first hear of PAVE?
Edgar: Our PAVE counselor, Susan Sprayberry, was part of the care team that met me while I was in a hospital bed at the VA. A big group of people involved in my care met in my hospital room. Susan talked to both of us, Laura and me, about what we wanted to do next. She asked us about what jobs interested us, and talked to us about helping us go back to school, if that’s what we wanted.
PVA: And did you jump into working with Susan and PAVE right away?
Edgar: (hesitantly) No, at that time, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I was concentrating on getting well, and that’s what I did.
PVA: And I should have asked in the beginning – how is your health now?
Edgar: I’m doing really well. I even go to the gym. I made the decision to go back to school, into the IT field.
Laura: Edgar is the one who pushed me to start working with Susan. I was a photographer before my husband’s injury, and after his injury I felt as if getting back to my career would not be possible. I was very depressed. I may not have talked about it or showed it, but I felt afraid. Working with Susan has assured me that I have not lost a part of myself, that I had more potential beyond just being a care giver full time.
PVA: Can you tell us a little more about your relationship with Susan?
Laura: When we met, Susan didn’t ask me about Edgar, she asked me about me. That was refreshing. So as time went on, I learned to separate myself from my everyday roles as wife, mother and caregiver, and talk about my photography. Sometimes I’d say ‘There’s no way’ and my counselor would say, ‘There is a way. And we can help you.’”
She really has become part of our family. She “gets’ us, and was able to push us beyond what we thought we could do. She was there to see what I couldn’t, beyond what in front of my face. Her attitude of ‘yes, you can’ probably pushed me the most. I didn’t feel stuck. I saw the light at the end of the tunnel and that yes, I have all this going on around me, but YES I still can!
PVA: How is PAVE different than other career counseling services?
Laura: I didn’t know what the extent of the help and resources were out there for me, until I found PAVE. I would definitely recommend the PAVE program for caregivers. There is a way to get back to doing what you did post injury. The PAVE counselors understand our life change more than anyone else and they have the tools to get resources to open doors for us caregivers.
PVA: How do you think your life would be different if you hadn’t used PAVE?
Edgar: PAVE has helped us, not only with education and careers, but with our family life. Because Laura now goes to work, I spend more time with my kids than I ever did. We are so much closer as a family. And when I was first injured, Laura was afraid and felt guilty about leaving the kids alone with me. But when she went out to work, I was the one to take care of them, and I could show her that we really could do it.
Laura: When I saw Edgar lying in that hospital injured, it was heartbreaking. He was the core to our family and the foundation. Seeing him there helpless was devastating. There was nothing I could do to fix this. I couldn’t change anything and I couldn’t help him. That was where I got stuck. The feeling of helplessness settled. I felt that I didn’t have the strength like him to get us through this. I had that blindfold of “there is nothing I can do for him or my kids, I am not as strong as him, I CAN’T!”
Fast forward to now. Man, I am a different person. In this injury, I found that I AM a strong woman, emotionally and mentally. Where I used to feel that I couldn’t do anything to help, now I found my voice. My first job was being his advocate and voice when he couldn’t. I found that I had a life outside of his injury. That even if this life changing accident happened it doesn’t define me or who I will become….. I HAVE no limitations.
Whether you are newly transitioned, a recent grad, changing careers or seeking advancement opportunities, PAVE’s “Partner for Life” guarantee ensures that support is always a phone call away. PAVE counselors offer customized vocational plans that are suited for your personal and career goals. If you, or someone you know could benefit from PAVE’s services, contact them at 1-800-424-8200 or visit, PVAs website
Because PAVE helps all veterans AND their spouses/caregivers, not just paralyzed vets, and at NO COST, you can help us reach our goal of placing one veteran in a job every day by donating here.