Life After Military Service for James Burkett

For many who enter the military, the possibility of a career outside of service doesn’t typically cross one’s mind. That was certainly the case for retired Sgt. James Burkett. Though the path to get to this point was less than ideal, Burkett has found new meaning in his role with the Secret Service after five years of serving with the Army, where he worked as a mechanic and a gunner.

“We were responding to a downed vehicle that hit an IED,” Burkett recalls about the day he was wounded while on duty. “We pushed right about ten meters and hit another IED.” He was first transported to Israel, and then to Germany, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, and finally Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas, where he worked on his recovery from multiple injuries, including a traumatic brain injury, a torn rear labrum in both shoulders, damage to his S1 vertebrae, and an ACL tear.

“I’m very fortunate to still be here,” Burkett says.

He eventually arrived at the Warrior Transition Battalion at Joint Base San Antonio, where he began what would become a two year recovery process. During this time, he attended a town hall meeting where he learned about the Operation Warfighter Federal Internship Program and spoke to an OWF coordinator about his career options and internship opportunities.

“It sounded too good to be true,” Burkett admits with a chuckle.

Burkett was interested in a number of programs, specifically the FBI, DEA, and other agencies. Upon further research, he began digging into the Secret Service, an agency that had interested him before he joined the military. After discussing the idea with his OWF coordinator, Burkett was contacted by a representative from the Secret Service and was informed about what he’d be working on during his internship.

After a year with the office, Burkett remains excited about the work he gets to do for the Secret Service, where he notes the office manager teaches him a lot and is very invested in his development and his future.

“It’s the opportunity of a lifetime,” he says.

Transitioning from the military to civilian life can be intimidating, but Burkett notes his military values have made him an asset to the Secret Service and has helped him ease into his new lifestyle. His punctuality, ability to take orders, and an eagerness and openness to work on any task handed to him has been crucial to adapting to life after the military.

Burkett’s advice to those who are unsure of what direction to take after the military: “Go out and network [with different programs and agencies]. I had a lot of questions during my recovery, but the OWF coordinators are there to answer those questions, and I’m really glad I asked.”

While interning with the Secret Service, Burkett has also returned to school to work on his Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice and Prosecution. The staff with the Secret Service staff works with his schedule so he can accomplish his goals both for his education and his career.

“It was hard to end one dream – I wanted to be in the military my whole life,” says Burkett, “but I’m very thankful to be able to work on a new dream.”