By Sandi Moynihan

EL PASO, Texas—After 24 years of service and three deployments to the Middle East, then-Army Sgt. 1st Class Vito DiChristina knew it was time to transition back into the civilian world.

“I have three children [and] they’re all starting high school … it was time to refocus myself back towards my family,” DiChristina said. “Also, being 40 years old and trying to keep up with 18-year-olds is not always easy.”

“So it was time to go do something else.”

Intent on retiring and settling with his family in the El Paso, Texas, area, DiChristina asked to be stationed at Fort Bliss during his final months of service. The only problem was, when it came to actually transitioning out of the military and searching for a civilian job, his personal and professional connections in El Paso were limited.

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Fortunately, while participating in Soldier For Life, the Army’s transition program, he stumbled upon USO El Paso’s then-temporary Pathfinder location.

“They said, ‘Hey, do you need help with your resume,” DiChristina said. “They got me in touch with Mr. [Genaro] Lopez, who was my counselor during my transition process.”

Over the course of several months, DiChristina worked with Lopez, now the Pathfinder site manager in El Paso, to develop a comprehensive transition plan to jump-start his civilian life. In particular, Lopez helped DiChristina navigate his retirement benefits, discover educational opportunities and find potential job leads.

“He was a retired military guy, so he instantly had credit with me,” DiChristina said.

With the help of the USO El Paso Pathfinder team, DiChristina was accepted into a 12-week fellowship at Prudential, which ultimately led to a job offer. He also decided to pursue his MBA on a part-time basis and is on track to complete his degree in 2019.

“I’m no longer part of the Army team anymore … but knowing that there’s an organization that’s willing to take me on [feels good],” DiChristina said.

Editor’s note: DiChristina turned down Prudential’s offer for a full-time job at Confier Health Solutions, where he still works today.