Carlos Figueroa saw a recruiting ad on TV when he was 12, and knew he would become a Marine.
“I wanted to make a difference,” the wounded veteran said at Millie’s Old World Meatballs and Pizza in Morristown on Tuesday.
Millie’s owners, brothers Vincent and Brandon Carrabba, feel the same way. One of their other businesses, the Metro One Loss Prevention Services Group, hired Figueroa for its retail division.
At a ceremony on Tuesday, the corporate security company pledged to extend job opportunities to more veterans.
Metro One signed an agreement with the Army Partnership for Youth Success (PaYs), a program that helps returning soldiers transition from the armed forces to the workforce.
“It’s important to support our veterans,” said Metro One President Phil DeJulio, after five fresh-faced Army recruits from Staten Island snapped to attention and sang The Army Goes Rolling Along with their sergeant-recruiters in Millie’s open-air dining section.
“It’s a plus for all employers. We get very focused, talented, loyal, trained, competent employees. Each individual is different, but they come from a tradition of discipline, loyalty and a very strong work ethic,” said DeJulio.
“Giving those who serve our country an opportunity for employment is the least we can do for our veterans,” added Vince Carrabba.
That sort of commitment means a lot to Carlos Figueroa.
‘I’LL ALWAYS BE GRATEFUL’
The Newark native comes from a family of doctors and engineers, and he achieved good grades in high school. Yet college never was a contender. In 2008, Figueroa marched into a Marines recruiting office.
The Marines envisioned him as a combat engineer, but that smacked of “desk job.” It was boots on the ground or nothing for him.
On patrol in Afghanistan four years ago, while his unit investigated a suspicious house, a booby-trapped door exploded.
Five comrades died. Figueroa was hurled through the air. A sliver of metal lodged in his shin. His hip and shoulder were dislocated and one eye sustained permanent damage.
It took awhile to recover, and longer to readjust to civilian life. Metro One was ready when he was.
“I’ll always be grateful,” said Figueroa. “This company gave me an opportunity when I really needed one.”
‘YOU INCREASE YOUR CHANCES’
The PaYs program partners with more than 500 companies that guarantee job interviews to honorably discharged soldiers vetted by the Army.
Sgt. 1st Class Richard Wooton brought five Army recruits from Staten Island–where Metro One is based–as examples of prospective PaYs candidates.
Fresh out of high school, these recruits are headed to boot camp in September. They may need all summer to burn off the grenade-sized meatballs, bacon salad, potato pizza and gnutella pie that Millie’s lavished on them.
Joseph Iadicicco, 17, aspires to a law enforcement career after his military tour.
“I didn’t want to be behind a desk,” he said. “I wanted to do something more meaningful with my life.”
Lauren Nowak, 18, and her twin sister defied their parents by enlisting. Lauren anticipates learning skills in the Army for a career as an air traffic controller.
Corporate recruiters should take note in the future, Sgt. Wooton said.
“Anytime you hire someone, you’re taking a chance they will be a good employee,” he said.
“You increase your chances of getting a good employee by getting someone out of the military. They’re trouble-free, drug-free, and have at least some education.”
And they are dedicated, if Carlos Figueroa is an indicator.
Given the sacrifices he and his fellow Marines made in Afghanistan, would he opt for military service if he could have a do-over?
“In a minute,” Figueroa said without hesitation.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misidentified Carlos Figueroa. Morristown Green regrets the error.