JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (Dec. 21, 2016) – Darren “Red” Rankin had the look of a kid waking up on Christmas morning when he saw what was stacked in a conference room at Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) headquarters in Jacksonville. DEWALT®, a corporate partner and supporter of WWP, provided a bounty of yellow boxes and packaging, filled with tools and supplies. As he walked into the room, his expression was one of overjoyed shock. His wife, Tracy, grinned from ear to ear.
“That is amazing,” Red said, marveling at the stack of equipment. “That’s really amazing.” He and his wife began to weep openly, hugging each other. These tools are more than just a donated gift – they are hope for their future.
Max Van Arsdale, a WWP staff member who arranged the tool giveaway with DEWALT, explained the partner donated the tools to assist with Red’s business.
“They were very happy to offer these tools and hope this will go a long way in helping you out,” Max said.
“Yes sir, absolutely – without a doubt,” Red responded enthusiastically. “This will help tons.”
Red served in the Coast Guard for nearly 23 years. He was heavily involved in international and domestic tactical boat operations, including two overseas deployments where he earned the Southeast Asia Service Medal, a Navy Letter of Commendation, and one of two Coast Guard Commendation Medals. He also earned the respect of the training specialist for one of the major military boat manufacturers.
“This company approached me and asked me to do contract work for them,” Red explained. “After a couple of years of taking leave to do contract work, they told me they had a lot of work coming up, and that if I were to retire, they would be able to keep me very busy for years to come. Based largely on this advice, I decided to retire and do contract training full-time.”
After he had been retired for a while, the Coast Guard gave him a chance to work as an international military student officer. He discussed this opportunity with the boat manufacturer, and they asked him to stay available for them because they were growing and needed him to keep up with the increasing demand.
“I decided to decline the Coast Guard position, but this turned out to be a very poor decision,” Red said with a touch of regret in his voice. “The contracts began to dry up.”
Financial hardships crept up on Red and his wife in the spring of 2015. Shortly after purchasing a home and moving in, Red’s wife fell and broke her kneecap in half. She underwent three surgeries and was unable to return to work for nearly a year. When she did return, she was released, causing the Rankins to lose a significant portion of their income.
“To keep up with our bills, my wife took a job at a home improvement store, and I started doing home improvement and handyman jobs,” Red said. “I’ve always done my own home repairs, and everyone who has ever seen my work was always surprised that I didn’t do it for a living.”
In an attempt to secure better jobs, he reached out to WWP to get assistance with resume writing and career placement through Warriors to Work®. The WWP staff member he worked with, Ty Dixon, got him started on the path that would change his life forever and lead him to this room filled with power tools.
“She sent me several job placement postings, resume writing tips, and student aid information to help me with continuing education,” Red said. “During this time I was able to secure a job doing a complete renovation of a multi-family home that would keep me working through at least the end of the year.”
Now, Red is engaged full-time with this line of work – to the extent that his current tools aren’t up to the tasks he is being given.
“I’ve got more demo work, and my saw is battery operated – I can only make it through one two-by-four, and then I have to stop and either break it or hack it through by hand,” Red said, gesturing toward the reciprocating saw. “I’ve got some smaller clients who have asked me to do some installations for them, in addition to a very recent development; I got a call from a company that does contracting for Starbucks® locations in Florida. It’s an amazing coincidence, but this company wants to bring me on to do maintenance and repair work for the Starbucks in our area. It’s been an amazing ride – just unbelievable.”
Red laughed as he inspected the tools. “These are going to get put to extremely good use.”
While much of his success can be attributed to his work ethic and determination, Red is also quick to point out the WWP staff member who first connected him with career resources during a low point in his professional life.
“I reached out to Ty so long ago, and it was about ‘can you help me with a resume – and help my wife with this resume?’” Red said. “She just kept calling, asking me ‘how are you doing; is everything OK Red?’ I would tell her ‘things are OK right now; I just picked up this contract,’ and she said ‘we might be able to help you with that too.’” He motioned to the tools, his voice thick with emotion. “I’m struggling for words – I’m just so amazed at this whole experience, and how it’s all worked out.”
After a chance to tour WWP’s headquarters, it was time to get back on the road. As Max helped Red and Tracy load their truck, Red said “it’s an early Christmas” and chuckled as he reached for another box of tools. The Rankins said a tearful goodbye and headed out; the next day was a work day, and Red couldn’t wait to play with his new tools.
To learn about the same programs and services the Rankins learned about during their office tour and how WWP makes an impact on the lives of wounded warriors, visit woundedwarriorproject.org.
Contact: Mattison Brooks – Public Relations Specialist
About Wounded Warrior Project
We Connect, Serve, and Empower
The mission of Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) is to honor and empower Wounded Warriors. WWP connects wounded warriors and their families to valuable resources and one another, serves them through a variety of free programs and services, and empowers them to live life on their own terms. WWP is a national, nonpartisan organization headquartered in Jacksonville, Florida. To get involved and learn more, visit woundedwarriorproject.org.