As a member of our FirstNet team, Scott Mendoza spends much of his time finding the best ways to keep firefighters, police officers and EMTs connected during times of great need. Whether it’s navigating wildfires or driving through a hurricane, a first responder’s regular workday often calls for tough decisions. Having served 14 years in the Air Force, Scott understands the impact those sacrifices can make.
As an Air Force officer, Scott piloted both the MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper. These Remotely Piloted Aircrafts (RPAs) have varied roles from intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance to hunter/fighter military roles. It is also common for these aircrafts to support troops on the ground, providing overwatch and an “eye in the sky” to protect our service members. It’s a role that can carry tremendous weight with it, and Scott was more than aware of the responsibility involved acting as the eye for others.
“I remember providing overwatch for a special ops team. They were far from base but needed to bed down for the night. Their last radio transmission before drifting off to sleep was, ‘We appreciate you looking after us, you’re our angel up there’”.
To transition out of a role that carried such responsibilities daily is a challenge many veterans face. Scott was fortunate to find JoHanna Martinez, an AT&T military recruiter and USMC veteran, who helped him land an internship within AT&T. Trading his Air Force flight suit for a business suit, Scott hoped to expand his skillset in corporate America.
Some challenges, however, you simply can’t prepare for.
Coping with the Aftermath of Military Service
In the following five to six months with AT&T, Scott – normally high-energy and extroverted – started to dramatically change. His wife feared the worst as she noticed Scott more withdrawn, depressed, and even avoiding social interactions with friends.
“I didn’t know what was going on and it was straining my personal life; my marriage. That really drove me to figure out why.”
Scott finally visited the Dallas Veteran Affairs hospital where he was screened and eventually diagnosed with PTSD. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD is a mental disorder caused by traumatic experiences that later impacts one’s mood, sleeping habits, or ability to cope in stressful situations. Scott felt the urge to convey his diagnosis to his boss.
“It was very hard for me to admit my disorder outside of my family. But I knew my PTSD episodes often come unplanned and I would need to excuse myself from meetings. My voice shook as I told him the news. I didn’t know how he would take it.”
His boss responded, “Scott, I know it must have been quite difficult and I just want to thank you for having the courage to talk to me. Your story is inspiring. I absolutely want to help in any way I can.”
Support from FirstNet’s leadership was certainly a big relief for Scott. The biggest support, however, was yet to come.
“Roy” is Scott’s service dog and one of his closest friends today. Before bringing Roy to work for the first time, Scott was anxious about how others would react. Many people associate service dogs with physical disabilities. The good news is, that perception is changing as more people discover how helpful they can be for various needs.
“There are non-profits that train service dogs for veterans. They alert you when you’re triggered. When you’re triggered, your brain isn’t in a good place; not in the here-and-now. That’s why I bring my buddy Roy with me to work. He makes sure I’m in the present moment, not the past.
“Each service dog is different in how they alert their owners. When Roy senses something, he tries to give me a hug or, at least, sit on my lap. He’s basically saying, ‘Hey, I’m sensing something, and I need you to be aware of that. If you don’t do anything, I’ll keep alerting you.’”
Would Scott’s peers be confused? Would they feel it was unfair that they couldn’t bring their own dog?
“But what I got were smiles. People accepted Roy. They just didn’t understand that you shouldn’t pet a service dog, since he needs to look out for me the entire time.”
Roy quickly became a staple of Scott’s day-to-day, as well as the team he works with.
Today, Scott continues pulling from his experience as an Air Force veteran to help first responders and our customers receive the best service possible. And when things get tough, he can always rely on his buddy Roy for a helping paw.Learn more about Veterans at AT&T