2019 Veterans Grant Winners

2019 Grant Winners

To recognize the sacrifices veterans have made for our country, the law firm of David Resnick & Associates is awarding cash grants to men and women who have served in the U.S. armed forces.

“On Your Side, Fighting For You.”

That’s the motto at David Resnick & Associates. It also applies to veterans. While our firm fights for injured victims in the courtroom and at the negotiating table, veterans were on our country’s side, fighting to protect all of us. We believe it’s time to honor deserving vets. Check our Veterans Grant page to learn the latest submission details.

We are proud to announce that we have chosen our winners:

Typically we give out three prizes each year but this year we could not choose only one third-place winner and are giving them each the prize amount for third place.

  • 1st Place: Huralain Mohamed, US Army
  • 2nd Place: James Johnson, US Army
  • 3rd Place Tie: Chris Moon, US Army
  • 3rd Place Tie: Connor Knight, US Army

1st Place – Huralain Mohamed

I, Huralain Mohamed, served in the US Army for 4 years from Oct 25, 2010 – Jan 10, 2014. Joining the military was always a dream and a goal of mine since I was a little girl. My mother, former CPT Faduma Shegow, served 26 years in the US Army and was my biggest inspiration for enlisting. My family moved to America as refugees from Somalia during a time of civil war. Being able to watch my mother’s transition and the way the Army impacted her life as she was able to help change the lives of others was one of my biggest motivating factors. I graduated high school early in 2010 at the age of 16 and shipped off to basic training when I was just 17 years old. I actually had the joy of spending my 18th birthday with my battle buddies at basic training where they surprised me by singing happy birthday to me and even gave me a MRE brownie in place of a birthday cake. I went to basic training in Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri and went to AIT at Fort Gordon, Georgia where I later became a 25 Bravo, Information Technology Specialist, through the US Army Signal School.

As a junior enlisted 25 Bravo, my journey in tech began with being responsible for maintaining, processing and troubleshooting military computer systems/operations as well as local area networks, and performing system administration for my unit. After leaving Fort Gordon, I was stationed in Fort Bliss, El Paso where I became an E-4 specialist. As a specialist, I was responsible for maintaining computers and servers within all of the computing and network environments. I also installed, configured, and maintained network and off the shelf equipment within the LAN (i.e. routers, switches, desktop and laptop computers). I provided first hand system administration to the tactical battle command servers in the tactical operations center and direct support for information assurance.

The highlights of my 4 years in the Army were the various milestones I was able to accomplish during my military career, being the first line of support to our brigade and battalion command, and providing the security services and attributes of availability, authentication, confidentiality, integrity and non-repudiation for our entire unit. After transitioning out of the Army in 2014, I moved to Houston to start my civilian career in IT and to get my degree in computer science. I currently work as a contractor Trader Support Analyst at Shell. I am enrolled in school full time as well at Lamar University to finish the last year of my Bachelor of Science in Computer Science. I have spent the last year and half teaching myself coding through various online tutorials like FreeCodeCamp and Udacity.

Since the day I first enlisted, I have been working in IT for the past 9 years and one thing I have noticed is that there continues to be a pipeline problem with a constant lack of diversity in tech. I know from first-hand experience the challenges that I have faced as a veteran, as a woman, and as an African-American minority transitioning to become a software developer. Most top-tier tech companies in the US are noticeably missing the presence of military veterans, even though veterans make up some of the best leaders. Only 20% of tech jobs are held by women, and most of them only have a career span of 7 years in IT. African-American and Latinx minority groups only hold about 7-11% of tech related computer and mathematics positions. From being in the Army, I was in a great position of having the skills that leveraged my core competencies in IT. I want to use those skills to give guidance to minority groups that never receive the mentorship, sponsorship and guidance needed to advance their careers in tech.

If I were to win this grant, my intentions are to use 100% of the grant funds towards the illustration and publication costs of a semi-autobiographical children’s coding & STEM book that I am currently writing about a G.I. Jane that learns how to code. I believe that exposing children and teenagers to the concepts of coding and STEM at a young age is the best way to instill early motivation, interest, and confidence in tech. My overall goal is to be able to open a non-profit within the next 2-3 years to teach coding and tech skills for free to marginalized and underrepresented communities in IT. I want to help other veterans and their families, women, POC, disabled, and other minority groups learn and expand their possibilities in STEM. I also want to facilitate in dismantling the structural barriers that prevent the full participation, leadership, and career longevity of veterans, women, and people of color technologists in the innovation and IT economy.

2nd Place – James Johnson

My name is James Johnson and I am a U.S. Army Veteran. I served in the Army from February 11, 2000 to March 13, 2013. During my time in the Army, I deployed to Iraq four times. I lost a couple close friends in combat and it took a toll on me. However, the hardest part was being away from my family. When you join the military, you know there may come a time where you have to go combat terrorism and there is a possibility you might not make it back alive. This is something you are aware of and agree to when you sign up. For the majority this is a sacrifice we are willing to make. Then one thing we don’t think about is how it affects our family. When most people enlist into the military, they are fresh out of high school and do not have a family (e.g. spouse, kids). This was the case for me. I joined during a time of peace but knew there might come a day when I would get called to fight and protect my country. Having a family was at the back of my mind. When 9/11 happened, I was certain I would be deployed but the call never came. I got married a year later and had my first child in 2003. At then end of 2003 I received my orders to deploy to Iraq for 18 months. My son was about 6 months old at the time. He used to sleep on my chest at night. Then I deployed and when I came home, he was almost two years old. He didn’t even recognize me. I tried to pick him up and he started screaming and crying. I missed him taking his first steps, saying his first words and many other first. That is the true sacrifice of being a service member. You miss so many birthdays, Christmases, Thanksgivings, other holidays and many firsts. Aside from missing all the family moments, I enjoyed my military career. I served honorably for thirteen years. Every military school I went to I was the Honor Grad or Distinguished Honor Grad. My awards include Bronze Star Medal (which is one medal below the Medal of Honor), Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Combat Action Badge, Humanitarian Service Award, Iraq Campaign Badge with three campaign stars and a few others. As you can see by my list of awards, I had an exemplary military career. I fast tracked through the ranks and was promoted to Sergeant First Class/E-7 within 10 years. I was well on my way to making my dream of being a Sergeant Major/E-9 come true. I was stationed at the Pentagon in 2012 and was home on leave, when my wife gave birth to my daughter. My daughter was born premature at 28 weeks. She had to stay in the Neonatal Intensive Care (N.I.C.U.)  for 2 months. I only got to spend a few days with her before I had to go back to the D.C. area. It was hard being over 2,000 miles away and my daughter being in the N.I.C.U. That was the turning point for me. I had decided I had sacrificed so much for my country and missed out on a lot of my children’s lives that it was time to make the hardest decision of my life and walk away from the military. I finished my assignment in D.C. and returned home. The military had offered me a nice bonus to re-enlist but this time I chose my family over the Army. I miss being a Soldier every passing day, but I enjoy all the time that I now get to spend with my children. My oldest son just recently turned sixteen and we have finally bonded over the past couple of years. He never really got to know me because I was always, deployed, out in the field training or in some military school. I sacrificed so much during my time in the Army, I feel that I am more than deserving of this grant. If I am chosen, I am definitely going to use it to take my family somewhere special and enjoy family time. Thank you for your consideration.

3rd Place Tie – Chris S. Moon

I, Chris Moon, entered West Point’s Cadet Basic Training on July 2, 2007. Back in 2007, it was unusual for the son of Korean immigrants to join the military. It was during the height of the Iraq War and most Korean immigrants like my family felt that the mandatory military service in Korea should be avoided because one should not voluntarily work at what they perceived as a high-risk, low-reward job. I became a naturalized U.S. citizen during my freshman year of high school. As a new citizen, I set an ambitious goal to apply to West Point and to serve in the Army.

Even before immigrating to California with my family, I had a deep appreciation for the American military for its presence in South Korea after the Korean War. Nevertheless, I wanted to give back to my new country and through military service. During my senior year, I was selected to be the first Korean-American principal nominee to represent California’s 12th Congressional District at West Point and ultimately commissioned as a Military Intelligence Officer in the U.S. Army.

Five years later, a military retiree asked, “Captain Moon, what do you plan to do after the military?”

I never thought there would be an “after the military,” since I had planned to serve for my career. During my final airborne operation at the U.S. Army Ranger School, my parachute malfunctioned and the harness straps wrapped around my neck when I jumped out of the airplane. It knocked me unconscious in the drop zone. I was lucky to be alive, and successfully become a Ranger, but had to endure a rigorous treatment plan for my injuries. The treatment lasted for more than two years. In July 2016, I transitioned back to the “civilian world.”

Throughout the treatment process, including 50 hospital visits, I spoke with many veterans who had served during the Nixon administration. In one instance, a retiree waited 23 years to get approval for back surgery from the Veterans Affairs (VA). I was frustrated by the fact that I could not help him. He was the one who asked me what I planned to do after the military. During the transition process, I was determined to find another way to make a difference in the world. The conversations at the VA helped re-energize my passion in life: to serve by promoting justice. Looking back, I recall the most meaningful moments of my career in the U.S. Army.

My first duty station was near the border of Mexico. It was my first time living in a military town in Arizona. I wanted to know how the locals felt about our presence. I quickly sensed that most of them expected us to just come and go. Feeling the urge to bridge the gap, I volunteered as a soccer coach and helped build homes for those receiving government subsidies. These experiences inspired my passion for helping others.

After leaving Arizona, I led five soldiers at Fort Hood. Most of them were recent high school graduates and joined the Army to receive the GI Bill benefits. They did not have good support systems throughout childhood and serving in the military was their best option for job security. Aside from being their officer, I helped them with their transition process, including preparing them for the SAT, as many were determined to pursue higher education. Simultaneously, after learning that my organization had minimal interaction with the surrounding community, I initiated a mentorship program at a local elementary school that recruited over 20 volunteers to teach Math and English. These volunteer efforts reignited my enthusiasm for giving back to the community and strengthened my empathy for others.

Two years later, I went on a mission trip to southwest Cambodia with four other volunteers. We taught English to underprivileged children and rebuilt homes in areas not supported by the local government. I witnessed the lives of those impacted by inequality and poverty and left Cambodia feeling the urgency and need to do more. The following year, after hearing about the shortage of medical services in rural Peru, I put together a team of 21 volunteers to open a pop-up medical clinic. By the end of the trip, we provided medical aid to 170 villagers – many of whom had never seen a doctor before. I was humbled and inspired by the undeterred locals and children who made the most of limited resources. These same values carried over into my pursuit of education, empowering me to study business at Columbia Business School and law at University of California, Berkeley, School of Law.

I graduated from Columbia Business School’s MBA program this past May. At Columbia, I sharpened my communication skills and gained business acumen, and international  work experiences. Currently in law school, I am developing my critical thinking and written communication skills, which I believe are invaluable attributes in a successful attorney.  Together, these educational experiences and activities will provide me with the necessary skills and understanding to best represent and protect civilians and veterans.

As I reflect on the life changing decision in 2007, there were many unknowns that came before me. However, one thing was clear: I served to give back to a country that has given so much to my family. The idea that an immigrant and first-generation professional can come to America and get education and opportunities, I attribute the government and country for that. Thus, after law school, I will commit to a profession where justice is at the forefront and where I can make a positive impact in lives of others. I plan to work at the intersections of business, law, and public service. In the long-term, I aspire to transition into the State Department, where I can facilitate diplomatic relations with foreign countries. It would be a dream to one day serve as an Ambassador to South Korea and strengthen the alliance between the two nations.

3rd Place Tie – Connor Knight

Isn’t it funny how some of the smallest comforts can create such a positive impact? “Little Victories,” we’d call them; passing around a hot cup of coffee, wearing a dry pair of socks, or even opening a fresh can of chewing tobacco could influence a mission’s outcome in an infantry platoon. Though my mission has changed, my intention of success remains, and I believe the Veterans Grant would aide beyond measure in my endeavors here at the College of Charleston.

I swore into the Colorado Army National Guard on September 20th, 2013 during my first try at higher education. The men in my family have served in every war in American history, and I wanted to follow in their footsteps. My father was a Green Beret, so I tried to be one too. I attended Infantry school with follow-on assignments to Airborne School, Special Operations Preparation and Conditioning (SOPC), and Special Forces Assessment and Selection (SFAS), but after failing the selection process, I shamefully returned to my National Guard unit. I immediately began the transfer process to active duty to pursue the warrior’s life, and after 8 months of waiting on approval, I finally shipped out to Vicenza, Italy as a Private in the 173rd Airborne Infantry Brigade Combat Team. There, I participated in many peacekeeping operations and force-protection exercises with NATO Allies and Partnerships from September 9th, 2015 to September 22nd, 2018.

During my time in the Army, I had the privilege of training with many different foreign militaries and learning about their countries’ cultures, quality of life, and other dynamics not-easily seen from an outsider’s point of view. I traveled to every country I could; I met some interesting individuals and found myself in some interesting situations that I’m fortunate to be observant enough to learn from. The Army gave me structure of discipline, responsibility, and support, along with a platform to hone my tactical performance, leadership and critical thinking skills. It taught me to thrive where others wouldn’t survive, and to see importance and opportunity in what I have. Traveling, on the other hand, allowed me to grasp a firm understanding of the way the world works; the depth of human compassion and the capacity for evil, the articulately-designed chaos of nature, the attraction to individuality and the necessity of community, the value in responsibility and the force of will and desire can’t truly conveyed by anything other than one’s own experience.

I am now enrolled and awaiting the beginning of my studies at CofC, but I’m not ready yet. With the Veterans Grant, I would be able to finance the appropriate textbooks, supplies, and fees required to succeed in a collegiate environment. My interests are all-encompassing, but my primary goal is to pursue a degree in Exercise Science and to continue my studies in an Osteopathy program so that one day, I may do my part in treating our country’s military veterans, as well as our less fortunate. For this reason, I nominate myself as the recipient of the Veterans Grant award.

I believe I would be the right candidate to receive the Veterans Grant, because I like to think that I am a capable and resourceful individual that approaches my education opportunity professionally, and because I see this money as a very powerful tool that will play an integral role in my immediate future. Therefore, I ask that you grant me this award to further optimize my chances of academic success, and someday provide care, treatment, and a positive environment for those who need it most. Perhaps, I can even give them those “Little Victories” we all need to drive on.

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