Army veteran Ray Matteson on how his military and civilian service intersect
Ray Matteson enlisted in the U.S. Army when he was 18, starting his service one week after his high school graduation. His grandfather had also served and was on the ground at the Battle of the Bulge during World War II.
“I wanted to continue paying his service to country forward. That was my primary goal in joining the Army," he says. Ray notes that serving was also his way of supporting democracy for generations to come—including his son, who has continued the family tradition of serving in the Army and is currently on active duty in Anchorage, Alaska.
Ray's second goal associated with his service was to earn a college degree. Serving provided the extra financial support he needed to reach his academic achievements.
Ultimately, Ray checked off both goals over his eight years of service. He served his country as an electronic warfare mainframe systems hardware repairer—an entirely new skill set for him—and earned his bachelor's degree in computer information systems, the cost of which his VA benefits covered.
Beyond these goals, Ray got so much more out of his service.
“As a kid, I enjoyed watching The Waltons. I'd never been out of New Mexico or Texas, besides one trip to California. The Waltons lived in Virginia, and I remember thinking that I'd never get that far away," he says. “But Virginia is the first place I was sent."
Serving in the Army allowed Ray to live in several places up and down the U.S. East Coast and around the world, including Korea, Germany, and Hawaii.
“Experiencing all those places helped me go beyond the American view to understand other cultures and how they influence people's wider world views," he says. “I use that context to better understand where people are coming from when they have different perspectives."
Ray's path from military service to civilian work
Currently a business analyst in the Leidos Health Group, Ray sees himself as a sort of translator between the Veterans Affairs stakeholders and the Leidos technical team. From start to finish, he guides both sides in ensuring they design a solution that meets the veterans' needs and that everything works as expected.
Ray's experience transitioning from Army service to civilian work was unusually smooth. Since his military service, Ray has extended his service to the country by working with government agencies, including the Departments of Interior, Energy, Defense, and, now, Veterans Affairs.
“When I left the Army in 1990, Desert Shield and Desert Storm were heating up. There was a huge demand for mainframe hardware technicians, especially with a clearance which I had," he explains. “I jumped right into fixing mainframes for defense contractors—that's what the Army had trained me to do."
But Ray knew that technology continuously evolves, and he'd have to adapt his skills to stay relevant.
“Mainframes were on their way out after the 1990s, so I took my college courses that would help me transfer my skills from mainframes to other computer-based job skills, and then moved to the software side of the house thanks to my degree."
Ray's experience at Leidos and his continued service
Ray came to Leidos six years ago through a contract transfer. When that contract ended, he saw several other paths to pursue within the organization.
“Leidos offers great opportunities to keep people here, and I see that our leadership explicitly values employees' contributions and takes our mental health seriously. That attitude filters all the way from top leaders to local leaders and even down to first-line supervisors," he says.
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“I'm glad that I get to continue my small part in serving our great nation and keeping democracy strong," Ray says, noting that one of his favorite things about his work is that by supporting our military veterans, he's able to continue serving in a civilian capacity.
Like Ray, Leidos is committed to supporting veterans and military spouses—including in our hiring practices.
Learn more about how we do this with Operation MVP.