By Reg Chapman

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Iraq War veteran Orlando Carrasquelillo can finally smile, knowing his family now has a place to call home.

His journey was not easy. It began on the battlefield in 2004.

Orlando was a truck driver in the Tennessee’s Army National Guard when he was deployed to Iraq.

“We protected the civilian truck drivers over there, we had the gun trucks,” he said.

During his 365 days in Iraq, Orlando encountered an IED, or improvised explosive device, that changed his life forever.

“Basically home-made bombs that would go off on the side of the road when we were driving,” he said.

Able to walk away from the blast was a blessing, but Orlando returned home a changed man.

Diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Orlando traveled to Minnesota and met Victoria.

Two weeks after their son, Xavier, was born, he and Victoria were about to be put out on the street.

“Everybody needs help at some point,” Orlando said, “but it’s better to ask for it now than later.”

Orlando found himself turning to MACV.

First, the nonprofit put his family in a hotel to keep them from being homeless. Then, MACV worked with Orlando to get a HUD voucher and, in turn, a home.

Orlando then went back to MACV for help finding a job. He is one of 235 veterans MACV found employment for in 2018.

Employment specialist Ryan Schaefer helped Orlando turn his military experience into a civilian occupation.

“We did a lot of things on the front end,” Schaefer said. “We helped get licenses, drivers licenses switched over from Tennessee to Minnesota, we did other things get his resume organized.”

However, Orlando didn’t get to start the job MACV found. Doctors found a cyst on his spine, preventing him from taking the job.

“As his employment changed because of his physical disability, we wrapped back around to re-adjust on what things he can still do,” Schaefer said. “He is still very employable.”

Orlando is now back to the task of finding a way to provide for his young family.

“I don’t know where we would be without them,” he said.

Orlando is thankful MACV is with him for the long haul.

MACV continues to support Orlando and his family to keep them in their home and find him a job.

It takes donations from the community to keep MACV going. Just $50 is enough to get a veteran new clothes or shoes for a job interview.

If you’d like to help, click here.

Reg Chapman

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