KILLEEN — Transitioning soldiers in Caliber Collision’s “Changing Lanes” program graduated with a new career path in collision repair.
Master Sgt. David Alford, Sgt. Marquaishez Anderson, Staff Sgt. Michael Brazel, Sgt. 1st Class Anthony Carroll, Sgt. 1st Class Julio Chavez, Spc. Matthew DeLorto, Spc. Michael Galiger, Sgt. 1st Class Ronald Harding, Sgt. Nathan McGuire, Sgt. Ketwon Moore, Chief Warrant Officer 4 Samuel Rojas, Sgt. Earl Whittington and Master Sgt. Michael Sadler completed 18 weeks of intensive hands-on training that is offered free to transitioning soldiers at Changing Lanes Training Academy in Killeen.
In addition to the graduation ceremony, the soldiers involved with Caliber Collision team presented a 2016 Honda Civic they refurbished through the “Recycled Rides” program for a local veteran couple, Patrick and Antoinette Dombroski, who have a combined 16 years of service in the U.S. Army.
“It’s amazing that there is this program for transitioning soldiers to be able to know that they have a guarantee when they get out of the military,” Antoinette said. “They can come out with a job and learn new skills — I think that’s awesome.”
“That was my biggest worry when I got out, was how are my combat skills going to transfer to the outside world?” Patrick said. “If I was able to transition with something like this, that would have been a blessing. For them to have this work to show employers and apply what they’ve learned, it’s really amazing.”
The couple has been without a vehicle for six weeks after it broke down on the way back from dropping off their children, Mia and Nolan, at their grandparents’ house in New Mexico.
“Without a vehicle, your daily lives are changed. You don’t realize how much you rely on something until it’s not there,” Patrick said.
Antoinette, a medical retiree from the Army, has had difficulty without the support of a vehicle.
“Before I joined the Army at 20 years old, I was in decent health, so I walked everywhere and used the bus system,” she said. “Now, without having a vehicle, I can’t do that anymore. I can’t walk or stand for long periods of time, so even walking to a bus station to get somewhere would have been impossible for me to do. We were stuck in the house for a couple of weeks before we went to go pick up the kids.”
“In the middle of the summer, it’s so hot,” Patrick added. “It’s not like we could have taken the family and said, ‘Alright kids, we’re going to go walk a mile to go do this.’”
Fortunately, Patrick works close enough that he was able to keep a reliable routine by walking to work.
The inside of the hood of the Dombroski’s new vehicle was signed by each member of the Caliber team and the trunk was filled with gifts for the Scout programs that the family is actively involved with.
“That was the most emotional part for me,” Antoinette continued. “That was really, really special that they signed it so every time we open the hood, we can see how hard these guys worked on this vehicle and that they gave it to us. That’s amazing that we get to remember them that way.”
Patrick is a Cub Scout leader for Pack 211 out of Fort Hood and will advance with his son to the Webelo rank next year as a volunteer leader. Antoinette just started volunteering with Cub Scouts in addition to being a troop leader, co-troop leader and service unit’s events director for the Fort Hood Girl Scouts.
“Since I am unable to work, I fill in with volunteer work wherever I can. I’m really excited, because this next year I am starting a special needs troop because we don’t have anything like that in the area,” she said.“These families will be able to come into scouting and experience all the awesome stuff that comes with it at a level that’s doable for them when there wasn’t an opportunity to do that for them before.”
The purpose-driven Caliber Collision team’s mission is to return customers to their “regular rhythm” and to give back to the military community.