Service Above Self

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As we approach fall, a time of the year that for many signifies the return to school, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to share with you the story of a young man who has an incredible amount of passion for learning and sharing his experiences with others – Staff Sergeant and Sentinel, Venol Raymond.

Truly invested in his quest to serve, Venol is an individual from whom we can all take inspiration. His drive and compassion are great reminders of the wonders that the human spirit can accomplish.

Staff Sergeant Venol Raymond, US Army

I first met Venolin San Antonio, Texas, after he had recovered from injuries sustained while serving in the Army and was about to graduate from a transition program run by Wounded Warrior Project. I was immediately impressed with his ability to look past his injuries and towards his goals of higher education and a career of service to others. Additionally, I found him to be a young man who was articulate and possessed solid character traits and a high level of intellectual capacity.

Born in Haiti, Venol immigrated to the United States in 2003 and, shortly thereafter, joined the Army to give back to his newly adopted country. He served eight years in locations around the world before being medically discharged due to severe back and knee injuries caused by a vehicular accident during his service in Afghanistan.

Despite the injuries he suffered during his military service to our nation – or perhaps because of it – Venol possesses a warmth and joy for life that is somewhat uncommon among his non-Veteran peers attending college. Instead of letting the pain and disappointment of what he lost derail his future, he looked at what his new options were and moved forward with determination and drive. This drew us to approve him for our Sentinels of Freedom scholarship program in August 2015.

Since then, Venol has completed a large amount of volunteer work, graduated college as an international studies major, and taken part in a study-abroad experience in Taiwan. Currently, he is in Ghana, West Africa, completing a prestigious, two-part internship with the US State Department – the agency which he hopes to be able to work for full-time upon his return.

Venol is a young man who came to our country, served in our military, and sacrificed so much while doing so. And now, he continues to serve others. He did not have to do this; he could have just faded away, collected a disability check, and never worked again. But no; Venol did this “SuaSponte,” a Latin phrase meaning “of his own accord.”

In the business world, people talk a lot about ROI or Return on Investment. At Sentinels of Freedom, we believe that Venol’s ROI to our nation and our communities will continue to prove itself many times over in future years. Venol is an individual who possesses a rare combination of compassion and intellect and who has a drive to help others– all while remaining a true patriot to our country.

To learn more and to contribute to our effort in making a difference in the lives of Veterans like Venol, visit www.sentinelsoffreedom.org.

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