Persian Gulf Vet Soldiers On with RSC’s Help
As an Air Force search-and-recovery specialist during the
1990-91 Persian Gulf War, Tom Oaks went on dangerous missions
and “picked up the pieces” of shattered aircraft and bodies in
hostile environments. Two decades later those wartime
experiences, a hobby, and the Ohio Rehabilitation Services
Commission helped Oaks put back the pieces of his life.
After retiring from the Air Force, Oaks settled with his wife in her hometown, Cardington, Ohio, and worked as a fork lift driver at GENCO, a giant distribution center for Whirlpool products in Marion. In October 2004 Oaks was diagnosed with neuroretinitis, which cut his eyesight to 20 percent effectiveness and ended his driving job at GENCO. With two youngsters in college, Oaks was determined to stay employed. He refused to let the pathology of his eyesight changed the path of his life. Unpaid disability was not an option.
Fortunately, Oaks’ ophthalmologist referred him to a counselor in the Ohio Rehabilitation Service Commission, Bureau of Services for the Visually Impaired (BSVI) office in Mansfield. Working with GENCO, the BSVI counselor helped Oaks retain a job in the warehouse, though not operating machinery. However, the counselor and GENCO realized that Oaks’ longtime hobby as a computer programmer and technician would be his vocational path. With minor work accommodations (a larger computer screen with magnified resolution) and help from GENCO’s information technology assistant, Oaks developed a productivity monitoring database that will improve warehouse distribution and production efficiency.
Ohio Rehabilitation Services Commission (RSC) support for Oaks became a win-win situation for him and GENCO. Oaks’ sheer determination, backed by assistance from RSC and his employer, enables this veteran to soldier on today.