J.R. Warren served his country, and a grateful nation found a way to pay him back a little.

J.R. saw duty in the U.S. Army from 1996-1998, then spent nearly a decade in the Army Reserves. He visited Asia, Japan and England along the way.

The experience changed him. The Spring, TX resident was a communications non-commissioned officer attached to a medical group; he saw first-hand how caring health care professionals could relieve the suffering and bring reassurance to wounded soldiers, and realized he had found his path for life.

“I saw what doctors, medics and military nurses meant to the patients they served every day, and knew I wanted to help others that very same way,” he says.

When his military service was behind him, J.R. enrolled in nursing classes at HCC’s Coleman campus, about an hour’s drive from home. He tried to take classes “full time,” but the load was too heavy for a young father.

Tragically, his son suffered a serious brain trauma in a horrific accident. Add primary caregiver to the list of daily duties, and J.R. could have easily given up on his dream.

Instead, he heard about a special Pharmacy Technology class at HCC that partners with CVS Pharmacies to provide entry-level knowledge and apprenticeships in CVS stores upon completion.

It was just what the doctor ordered.

“It was a great opportunity to get into the medical field quickly,” J.R. says. “The class helped me get established in a well-paying job doing something I love, and provided me a credential I could build on if I want to go on and complete my nursing education.”

From August to September 2016, J.R. drove from his home in Spring to HCC’s Coleman campus in the Texas Medical Center for classes that lasted a full day.

He learned about medications and their effects on the human body, mathematics, and the laws and regulations governing the dispensing of controlled substances—“everything I needed to know to be a Level 1 Pharmacy Tech,” he notes.

Most of his tuition was paid through a Pell Grant administered through the Veterans Administration.

Because the Pharmacy Tech program was sponsored by CVS Pharmacy, students were given a 120-hour “externship” assignment in a CVS store after completing their studies. If all went well, they were hired as full-time CVS employees.

Today, J.R. is a pharmacy technician in a CVS store seven miles from his home.

A good job with a great company like CVS gives J.R. even more options—and decisions to make in the future.

He can become a career employee with CVS, and rise through the ranks to become a department or store manager, even a regional manager. Or, he can build on his Pharmacy Tech certificate and continue towards a nursing career.

But at the present, “I’m busy and challenged every day,” he acknowledges. “I’m always on my feet. Some days can be stressful, but the work is rewarding. I’m in a good spot.”

He encourages other vets to check on benefits available through the Veteran’s Administration. It was there, J.R. says, that he learned about the partnership between CVS and HCC, and realized the Pell Grant would provide support he would not have to pay back.

Consider it a “return on investment” for time served the nation.