By Shawna Ryan, T-Mobile Stories
Submitted by T-Mobile
As the country honors its servicemen and women this month, T-Mobile renews its lead sponsorship of a nonprofit helping veterans and their families meet the challenges of life after the military. In the final installment of this three-part series, we bring you a special story of how this employee found himself demonstrating what Military Appreciation Month in action truly means.
“I am one month away from retiring after almost 30 years of service with the Washington Army National Guard, and even right now Warriors & Quiet Warriors is helping me with such a big transition,” says Larry Weidinger, a T-Mobile Operations Manager in Montana.
A chance sighting of pamphlets for the organization back in 2014 led Larry to ask some questions about what exactly they did on these outdoor expeditions that was so special. Fast forward more than eight years later, and Larry has become a staple figure with the non-profit. He says his volunteer work as a companion to help other soldiers struggling after service was something he believes is part of his purpose.
“It’s just something I knew I needed to do as much as I can for the rest of my life,” says Larry.
“Larry never wanted the spotlight to be on himself,” says Emily, “and even though he qualified, he always had a mindset of service.”
Larry’s qualifications are staggering when you ask him to list out his life of service. In the Army for almost three decades, he was deployed to the Middle East three times and to seven different countries, including Iraq. He only recently decided to retire from his role as a senior non-commissioned officer and command sergeant major in a military intelligence battalion.
“I never wanted to take another veteran’s spot who might need it more than myself,” he explains.
When he was invited to join a fishing experience as a recipient himself, he says it was hard for him to allow others to care for him, but also necessary.
“I realized after getting married and having a baby and moving out of my command sergeant major role, that I also have a purpose to take care of myself,” he says. “What this program has done to help me is really amazing.”
“Our CEO Brian Gilman often talks about why veteran reintegration is hard after getting out of the military,” says Emily. “We are not about just focusing on the challenges, but also the solution and how we can help veterans find peace, meaning and purpose, and to pursue that purpose with passion.”
Larry says he always wanted to find a way to coordinate T-Mobile support for the organization that had given him so much beyond the work he was doing to bring more coverage to their area, but he says he just didn’t know how. So, when he walked into a partner’s lunch at the first Warrior Taste Fest and met Laura and Paula for the first time, accompanied by so much T-Mobile magenta, he was floored.
“He kept asking us how we got T-Mobile in Montana to do all this,” says Paula. “It felt like this perfect storm because Larry had been building out the network in that area as a market engineer and was so passionate about Warriors & Quiet Waters. He had so much insight and we made a pact after that event that we were going to do all we could to make sure this wasn’t a one-time thing.”
So, Laura decided to write a letter directly to Jon Freier, T-Mobile’s President of Consumer Group and the executive sponsor of the company’s Veterans and Allies Network employee resource group. She says she pulled all three of their personal stories together and explained what this organization is doing not just for her personally, but for so many others who have served, including Larry. She asked that he consider allowing T-Mobile to become a lead corporate sponsor for their next Warrior Taste Fest fundraiser.
“I’m so proud of the way T-Mobile supports our employee veterans and the veteran community at large,” she wrote. “Our work matters and aligns so beautifully with WQW’s mission.”
She sent the email on a Friday. By that following Monday she had a response.
“I ENTHUSIASTICALLY and FULLY support!” Jon Freier wrote. “Big thanks, Laura, for bringing this great organization to my attention.”
Laura says his commitment turned out to be more than just the funds.
“He blew us away by identifying countless resources throughout the company that we could work with to take our support of their event to the max,” explains Laura.
Members of Warriors & Quiet Waters say the attention that they were able to bring to their biggest event was invaluable, and the support they gave to ensure it was a success will never be forgotten. And thanks to these three T-Mobile employees advocating for the non-profit, Jon has once again approved the company’s lead corporate sponsorship for next Warrior Taste Fest in August 2022.
“It’s not just about helping veterans to survive,” ultimately, says Laura, “it’s how do we get them to thrive? And it’s in that thrive that you come to a self-actualization or a life of purpose. And I know this to be particularly important in the lives of a veteran family. For the veteran caregiver or the children, it’s important because so much effort often goes into helping the veteran succeed, and often times you forget to make sure you’re succeeding. And my participation in this program reminded me of the importance of thinking about challenging yourself to a greater life of purpose, because that’s when you see veterans and their families thriving, and that is the goal of Warriors & Quiet Waters.”
When you ask Larry to think about how this all came together the way it did, he will interrupt to remind you how it all started with an ally.
“I know that Paula was the catalyst for this by making the connection after her encounter with the board members from Warriors & Quiet Waters,” he says. “And through that I got to meet her and Laura, who has become a true friend. We know we can always call each other and be there for each other. And it’s because of this chance encounter of ours that T-Mobile has benefitted and so have those we serve at Warriors & Quiet Waters.”
Supporting Veteran Employees
Connecting veterans (and their families) to careers:
T-Mobile has partnered with Hiring Our Heroes, which finds meaningful employment opportunities for service members, veterans and spouses. It is also nationally recognized as a military-friendly employer and has committed to hire 10,000 veterans and military spouses by 2023. Since its merger with Sprint in 2020, T-Mobile is more than halfway there.
Fostering a culture of inclusion and professional growth:
T-Mobile offers resources to help retain veteran and military spouse employees throughout their career. The Tech X Returnship program, which connects people with a path back to the careers they love after a considerable break due to personal reasons, has accepted a number of veterans transitioning back into civilian life.
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