Surrounded by the flash of cameras and the buzz of journalists requesting an interview, U.S. Army veteran Dustin Perkins received red-carpet treatment as he prepared himself to accept the Veteran’s Education Award at this year’s Vetty Awards.
“It was super exciting, there were a lot of actors and actresses there. John Kelly, Jake Tapper and Nate Boyer…it was overwhelming.”
Coming from a strong military family, Dustin always saw a future of serving. At age 25, he decided to follow his father’s footsteps and enlist in the Army, not far from his hometown of Bensenville, IL. He served four years as a watercraft engineer and rose to the rank of specialist before being honorably discharged in 2010.
After transitioning from military to civilian life, Dustin decided to dedicate himself to helping other service members adjust after the military.
“I know it’s been said time and time again, but in the military, you are told where to be, at what time, in uniform. Everything is predetermined,” Dustin said. “Suddenly you don’t have that. It sounds small but suddenly you find yourself thinking, what do I do?”
As Dustin entered civilian life, he wanted to establish roots for him and his family. Dustin heard about Operation Homefront’s Homes on the Homefront program from his college’s Veterans Club. One of his friends was a recipient and encouraged him to apply.
Thanks to Operation Homefront and Chase, Dustin was a recipient of a mortgage-free home in 2016.
“I felt really warm and fuzzy and just overwhelmed with excitement when I received that call.” Dustin said. “It’s close to my job and having this home has improved my quality of life, financially and emotionally.”
A few years later, he is being recognized for his efforts to help his fellow veterans achieve their educational goals.
Dustin recalls the moment one of his coworkers nominated him for the award.
“He called me into his office and asked me, ‘Tell me what it is you do for that nonprofit?’ As I was telling him I noticed him typing and asked what he was doing,” Dustin said. “He just said, ‘Oh, I’m just nominating you for this award.’”
Dustin had never heard of the Vetty Awards before then, and now stood on the red carpet with people he admired, all there to celebrate him.
“Everybody was very welcoming,” Dustin said. “It was overwhelming and
nerve-wracking but amazing to be a part of. It felt like we were the stars instead of them. We felt honored and very special to be there.” See a Facebook Live feed of Dustin receiving his award.
Dustin has dedicated 1.5 years as volunteer Director of Marketing for Student Veterans of America, an organization whose mission is to provide programs, mentorship events, motivation and volunteer opportunities for veterans. Before that, he was president of the Veterans Club at his college.
As for what lies ahead, Dustin has received a promotion at his job at ITsavvy. He is currently working to receive his Project Management Certification and hopes to start a family in the near future.
For service members facing transition, Dustin offers some advice.
“Don’t be afraid to ask for help. There’s a multitude of assets and resources out there for you. Don’t be shy. Use them.”
-Interview and blog by Cynthia Leyva