When Rocky Ortiz left nearly 20 years of service in the Army, the transition back to civilian life was steep. “In the military, you’ve got rank and structure. In civilian life, not so much,” he says.
After the military, he tried different jobs, but none of them gave him the challenge and structure he was missing. “The only structure I felt like I had was going back to welding,” he says.
Rocky grew up in Dallas, Texas helping his father, a Native American from the Iroquois tribe, in his welding shop. “From the time I was 8 years old, I was helping him weld.”
For Rocky, getting down in the dirt with heavy welding equipment is familiar. “It’s hot, dirty, heavy work, but like I said—for me it’s what I do.”
And difficult work is not new to Rocky, either, thanks to his military career. He served as an infantryman on the frontlines, a jumpmaster in the 82nd Airborne division teaching soldiers how to jump from airplanes, and eventually worked his way up to the 75th Ranger Battalion.
“I joined the military as soon as they would let me… By the time I was 17 years old, I was in the jungle,” he says. “I never really thought about not coming back. I always figured I’d make it back.”
Since 2004, Rocky has served the skilled trades community in Dallas through Workrise. “They’ve put me on some of the best jobs in the metroplex,” he says. “I had a great career in the military, and coming around here and working—I’ve just been lucky, really.”
Rocky says what’s most fulfilling to him is getting the job done, and being a source of support for his girlfriend. “I’m glad to still be living, loving, and working. I’m still writing my story,” he says.