James Ballard grew up in upstate New York on his parents’ dairy farm surrounded by 25,000 apple trees and 5,000 hogs. His family raised chickens and sold the eggs to the local grocery store and markets in the area. After living on the farm for 10 years James was ready to escape small-town life. The U.S. Army was his ticket out and gave him a chance to see the country and what could be a better adventure he thought. He enlisted in the Army at 16. By the time his unit deployed to Korea in 1985, he quickly became homesick after leaving his girlfriend behind.
“I served at the height of the war on drugs,” says James.
The Reagan and Bush administrations were calling for an escalation in fighting drugs. In fact, the 1980’s was a remarkable decade in international events: the Cold War was coming to an end, and the U.S. military-industrial complex was facing spending cuts, with myriad economic ramifications.
James served in the military for 3 years and once back at home he struggled to find work.
“I felt like employers at the time were not receptive in hiring veterans and I felt like I did not have a lot to offer,” says James who was unemployed for several months before moving to New Jersey where he worked in construction building and remodeling homes from 1989-2010.
Then in 2010 he traveled to Indianapolis to take care of his ailing mother. After his mother passed, James was homeless. In March 2015, he learned about the services and programs at HVAF. He moved in to supportive housing at Warman Woods Apartments. There he met with employment specialists who helped him with resume and interviewing skills as well as encouraged him to attend a job fair hosted by HVAF. Within a month he was hired at FedEx.
At FedEx he was nominated for ‘Employee of the Month’ and also won the annual safety slogan award after submitting the winning company slogan: Safety is simple as ABC: Always Be Careful.
“Safety is the most important thing with what I do and I am proud to be employed at FedEx. They gave me a nice winter jacket and they took my photo with the slogan in the background,” adds James.
In the winter months, James will be busy de–icing the fleet of FedEx airplanes. He remembers the life lessons he learned growing up as a kid on the dairy farm that has helped him in the military and later in life.
“Be responsible,” he says. “With all the work I had to do on the farm I always strived to be responsible. Leadership is another trait I gained at a young age. When I went into the military I was groomed to lead because I had once managed migrant workers as part of my responsibilities on the farm.