Bolton pulled his Velcro-attached captain’s insignia off his uniform and set it on the table. “I am here as a friend, not an officer,” he said. They talked alone for 30 minutes. Then Bolton, Keizer and the plant managers worked out a plan. Keizer promised to seek help for his drinking. One of his supervisors, an Air Force veteran, pledged to give him advance warning and stand by his side during fire drills. They would start by doing practice drills without the alarm.
“The company loves soldiers,” Bolton would say later, explaining such accommodations. “They have plaques on the walls of their employees who have served and have fought overseas. I think it is a culture in that company. . . . They were willing to help Sal because he’s a soldier.”
Bolton, too. He asked Keizer to stay in closer touch, answered the texts that came in the middle of the night, took Keizer with him to church and did all he could, right up until Keizer lost his job after being charged one night with burglary, destruction of property and public intoxication. Keizer called Bolton from jail. According to Bolton, Keizer told him that he had been drinking and had fallen in a creek. To warm himself, he said he climbed into an unlocked car and was arrested.
“I am dumbfounded,” Bolton said. “I don’t know what to do. His PTSD, depression and anxiety are out of control.”
Bolton said he was going to talk to his lawyer and make sure he knew Keizer was a veteran. There is a special veterans court in Tulsa, but not in Rogers County, where Keizer was arrested.
Entering the pool
Last month, Bolton learned that he had another client: himself. Defense budgets were being cut in Washington. In Oklahoma, Guard officials were paring back their workforce.
Bolton grabbed his binder of résumés and headed for a meeting with Cintas, a business-supply company. Last fall, he interviewed for a management job with the company but withdrew from consideration when his commanders offered to extend his orders for six months. The company’s Web site showed that the position was still open.
“I’ve got four guys I want to tell you about,” Bolton told the Cintas manager. He casually mentioned that he was looking for a job, too, and probed for some sign of interest.
“I’ll have my guys apply online — and then I’ll apply myself,” he suggested.
In the parking lot, he wondered whether the company had lost interest in him. “I am starting to get stressed,” he said. Bolton, whose 12-year marriage ended in January, has had his war, too.
He let two weeks pass before calling the Cintas manager.
“I am trying to figure out if I need to continue to keep looking,” he said.
Cintas had hired someone else.
Two days later, he was at it again. Another interview. This time it was with an energy company, where an executive was asking him what he had learned at his current job.
“Companies aren’t really willing to step up and help vets,” Bolton said. “Mostly, what we get is just a pat on the back.”