A Story of Courage
STRATEGY PARTNERSHIPS, FIRSTNET
When Scott Mendoza is at work, Roy usually is too. A happy 2-year-old mutt, Roy is a rescue pup who was trained as a service dog to assist veterans – like Mendoza – who have been diagnosed with PTSD. It’s Roy’s job to sense when flashbacks start replaying in Mendoza’s mind. To alert his owner of a potential episode, he then jumps on his knee and offers a hug.
Mendoza is a graduate of the United States Air Force Academy and a former Air Force officer who exudes confidence, strength and positivity. For years, as a Remotely Piloted Aircraft pilot, he supported surveillance and strike missions around the world, often witnessing the atrocities of war firsthand.
Mendoza knew transitioning out of the military could be difficult. So as his military service neared completion he enrolled in the Department of Defense’s Skillbridge program, which enables transitioning service members to take advantage of civilian internships while still on active duty. When he applied for an internship at AT&T, recruiter JoHanna Martinez recognized his talent and made sure he landed in just the right spot.
Today Mendoza is a manager of Strategic Partnerships and Ecosystem Development at FirstNet. He says he was hired there not in spite of his military background, but because of it. “In both organizations we’re called to serve. The military serves the nation. FirstNet serves public safety,” he explains.
At first, Mendoza was caught off guard by PTSD symptoms. But with the support of his wife and family, he found help. And after Roy came into his life, things got easier at home. Roy needed to be by his side – that meant taking Roy to work – but introducing a service dog to coworkers meant potentially having tough conversations about his disability.
“As leaders, we should know how to react to and support our peers when they come to us about their mental health.”
“I told my supervisor and he said he respected my courage and asked to learn more so that he could better support me and others with PTSD,” Mendoza recalls. “However, I did experience some tough questions from fellow employees. And that’s okay! Because I knew the majority of those questions came from a lack of mental health awareness. People probably looked at me and thought, ‘He looks totally fine! I wonder why he needs a service dog.’”
“PTSD is an invisible disability,” Mendoza explains. “I suspect a number of employees are dealing with PTSD and other mental health issues and choose not to tell their bosses they need an accommodation because there is often a stigma around it. Not everyone is understanding.”
“But I had the opposite experience,” he says, adding that he wants to challenge AT&T to continue to spotlight mental health issues. “As leaders, we should know how to react to and support each other, especially those with mental health issues.”
AT&T is a perfect fit for Mendoza and Roy. The veteran has made valuable connections through the AT&T Veterans employee resource group, and Roy feels like part of the FirstNet family now. Most importantly, Mendoza feels supported by a company that welcomes and respects veterans not just in word, but in action. That’s because AT&T, he says, values veterans as individuals with their own unique talents, abilities and stories to tell.