“I was fairly young then, and starting a family,” Eric said.
Steven Blankenship wished he had stayed in the Army for a little longer.
“I enjoyed having people to work with,” Steven said. “And you know, everybody is in the same boat you’re in.”
Finding the right job wasn’t always easy for both of them.
“Dairyland and electric co-ops have always had such a great reputation for hiring veterans,” Eric said. “So I knew it was valued.”
“Quite a few people my age are working in telecom,” Steven said. “And it was what I was going to school for, so I thought I’d try it out.”
Along the way, they both discovered the working atmosphere at Dairyland was similar to helping serve the country.
“A lot of the jobs that are done in the military, I don’t care what they are, can be dangerous,” Eric said.
“We all get to put on a smiling face either or, whether it’s good or bad,” Steven said. “And everyone gets the job done.
Dairyland Power isn’t a job attraction just for Eric and Steven.
“65 veterans now that are part of its staff,” NRECA senior vice president Scott Peterson said.
The NRECA is helping co-ops around the country recruit and hire military vets mostly in rural areas.
“We have 160 cooperatives that are participating in that program across the country currently employed,” Peterson said. “Hundreds of veterans.”
It’s called the ‘Vets Power Us’ initiative.
“And it’s a way to honor those veterans who have been serving our country, and really making it safe for us to maintain the quality of life that we want to in this country,” Peterson said.
Veterans usually won’t ask for anyone to thank them, but it’s always appreciated.
“It’s nice when people say thanks,” Steven said. “It’s nice to know that what you did mattered.”
Normal life is pretty humbling, too.
“I love what I do,” Eric said.
Eric served in the Navy from 1991 to 1997 and has been working at Dairyland ever since.
Meanwhile, Steven left the Army in 2010, and joined Dairyland five years later.
Riverland Energy Cooperative, Jackson Electric and Pierce Pepin are also in the program.
‘Vets Power Us’ began in 2016.