VA helps soldier shoulder changes

After Randy Gibson was deployed to Iraq to perform convoy security for 18 months, he came back unharmed by enemy bullets but still sustained an injury that would affect him for years to come.

Randy Gibson (right) examines a map with John Richards (left) at the Lovell NRCS office. Gibson has been working with Richards as part of a VA program to assist injured soldiers.

Formerly a cement worker, Gibson said he couldn’t go back to his job because his shoulder had been injured from the daily chatter of a 50 mm rifle that he fired, either while engaging enemies or during routine test fires.

Returing from deployment to Billings, Gibson said he spoke with a Veteran’s Affairs official who instructed him to take an aptitude test to try to find a job that would fit Gibson and his employer. “Being outdoors” was one of his top priorities on the aptitude test, so the VA officer contacted the Natural Resources Conservation Service and Gibson signed on to work for three months at the Lovell NRCS office.

Ironically, recent rainfall has kept Gibson and manager John Richards out of the fields for the most part since Gibson began in mid-April. They have been busy with paperwork and other organization inside, but they both look forward to clearer days.

The NRCS works with farmers to develop and implement cost-share programs for irrigation. Farmers must sign a contract that guarantees the use of NRCS-approved irrigation systems, Richards said.

Gibson said he has learned a lot at the NRCS office so far.

“It’s definitely not something I would have tried to look for myself, but it’s something I really like,” Gibson said about the job. He plans to return to school in the future but said he would like to continue working with the NRCS after the VA-funded program expires.

By Brad Devereaux