Ediberto "Eddy" Cruz Cruz - 2021 Veteran of the Year, Monterey, California

“I feel bad about having my whole body when other Veterans lost limbs and are in worse shape. That’s hard for them. I try to be grateful and see the positive in life.”

Transitioning to civilian life with a disability was challenging, but with a lot of hard work, he landed in a great place.  He graduated from California State University Monterey Bay with a degree in computer science with a concentration in computer networking and went to work for an agriculture company as an IT technician. “I had to walk a lot and it was hard on my body and my back due to my injuries. It wasn’t ideal for me.”

That’s when he started searching and found the Global Connections to Employment (GCE) Information Technology Training Program (ITTP) in Monterey, California near his home. He signed up, graduated and entered the GCE workforce as a Trainee II. Under the supportive guidance of his project manager, Joel Johnson, also a Veteran, Eddy is now a software developer. Not only does he write code and install programs, he also trains users on NEO Tracking System (NTS).

“I told Joel I think God put you in my way,” Eddy said. “Joel is honest and straight forward. He’s willing to help people. He just has a great heart.”

Eddy said his wife is his rock. “She put up with a lot because of the trauma I experienced.” Eddy recalls her breakthrough moment during a college class. “She was reading a letter written by the wife of a Vietnam Veteran and started crying. The writer had such a great love for her husband who came back from war a different person. When she told me about it, I started working harder to change.” While his main focus is his wife and 7-year-old daughter Eddy said, “It’s good for me to help others because sometimes I get depressed.”

Eddy helps his sister at a nonprofit named Dorothy’s Place that helps the homeless. “I tell her, don’t worry about it. Let me help you.” He also helps his brother, a military veteran, who is receiving help through the VA for behavioral health needs. “I’ve learned not to judge others. You don’t always need to know why a person does something to jump in and help.”

Not long ago Eddy advised a veteran who was weighing whether or not to leave his job and enter the GCE ITTP. Eddy’s honest advice: “You’ll learn and enjoy this place.” The two men continue to stay in touch. “He’s really happy,” Eddy said.

A new person was hired to work in GCE Quality Assurance. She was assigned to work on a project Eddy previously worked on with. He immediately told her, “Call, text or email me anytime, and I’ll be glad to help.”

Working at GCE alleviates stress found in most corporate IT jobs because their Mission is to help people – that includes anyone with a disability. “I can book my VA appointments. When my brother was going through a hard phase and I needed to drop what I was doing and take him to the VA, all I had to do was let Joel know. Joel said, “OK” with no questions asked. “I would never take advantage of it, but GCE doesn’t consider a disability to be a problem. We have a great Mission, and I’m happy here.”

When Eddy is “at ease” he enjoys long walks with his family which includes two dogs.  He also enjoys spending time with his fruit trees which relaxes and calms him.

“Life has taught me to be patient and helpful, and I’m thankful to work with some great people. They help me. I help others. It’s a domino effect.”