By Ron Leir
Army veteran Fabian Cintron, who recently retired from two decades of military service, is transitioning back to civilian life.
So Cintron was shopping at the Goodwill Industries retail store in Harrison – just a couple of blocks from where he grew up – for some clothing. “My wife had a card for ‘Goodwill Suits Vets’ and she wanted me to come down and get an outfit,” Cintron said.
Cintron was talking about a mission by Goodwill Industries of Greater New York and Northern New Jersey to observe Veterans’ Day this year by inviting any veteran, past or present, preparing to enter the work force to visit any of Goodwill’s 40 retail discount stores, present proof of service and pick out garments needed for a job interview or first day on the job, all at no cost.
“Goodwill Suits for Vets is a thoughtful way to support our veterans – it’s a partnership between the public and Goodwill, working together to say thank you for your service,” said William Forrester, Goodwill president/CEO.
Goodwill, a nonprofit organization that seeks to empower people who face barriers to employment, also is welcoming veterans to enroll in its job training and job placement services program. These and other social services are underwritten by Goodwill through the sale of donated clothing and household goods at its retail stores.
Its stores, including the one on Supor Boulevard in Harrison, are also inviting residents who lost property due to flooding from Sandy to visit and “shop” for up to $50 worth of clothing per family member and household goods and those items will be provided at no cost.
Volunteers at the Harrison facility and at all Goodwill stores and DonationXpress centers are accepting tax-deductable donations of warm clothing, new underwear and socks, large size clothes for adults, children’s clothing, towels and washcloths, toiletries (soap, toothpaste, brushes, deodorant), diapers and wipes, pet food and cleaning supplies. Pick-ups can be arranged for company donations.
Goodwill will also be coordinating blood drives at its Harrison and Astoria, N.Y. facilities through the Red Cross.
Meanwhile, Cintron, who now lives in the Vailsburg section of Newark with his wife Ana, daughter, Janelys, 16, and stepson Armando, 18, is enjoying the fit of his pants, dress shirt, tie and winter coat – all secured from the racks at Goodwill in Harrison.
Cintron, 39, served in Iraq with the Army’s 2nd Armored Corps Regiment from January 2004 to November 2005. He retired with the rank of platoon sergeant and an Army pension.
Until he finds a new job, he’s been volunteering for his church, Alpha Omega Pentecostal, by speaking on an evangelical internet program (www.liberacionencristo.com) and sometimes on the air via Radio Cantico Nuevo, heard on 1530 AM. He also tutors youngsters at the church in math and physics. He’s also enrolled in a math program at Essex County College.
To make other veterans aware of Goodwill’s special offering, Cintron said he’d take pictures of the items he got in Harrison and text those images with information about Goodwill Suits Vets to buddies at the Kenilworth Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2230.
Reflecting on his 20 years of Army life, Cintron said he’d always wanted to “be a soldier – since I was a kid – I was drawn to it. I used to play with toy soldiers. To me, there’s nothing better than serving in the military. But it has to be a calling. When you feel it, you do a better job. Every year I was there, it was worth it. And I’d do it all over again if I could.”
During his tour in Iraq, Cintron said that although there were many close calls in combat situations, his unit suffered no fatalities. Pretty amazing since his group logged “over a million miles” across the country assigned to escorting and transporting of petroleum – an obvious target for insurgents.
“Since day one, we were in combat situations in all types of danger zones,” he said. “Every single mission we set out on with our unit was accomplished.” That included a four-month deployment in support of U.S. troops during attacks on Fallujah, he said. (While the unit successfully deployed, ultimately, in 2004, insurgents managed to repel the American forces.)
Upon his return from overseas Cintron sought the help of Veterans Administration health professionals at Lyons and East Orange Hospitals and said he got plenty of help. “I would recommend those V.A. facilities for any returning combat veteran,” he added.
Today, aside from focusing on the job market and his family, Cintron orients himself around also extending a helping hand to fellow veterans, whether that means giving someone a ride to the hospital or staying in touch by phone or whatever might be needed.
“I feel like my service isn’t finished,” he says.