Steve Bavier, 61, is a yard manager at JDog Junk Removal and Hauling in Menomonee Falls, Wis.
Q. What’s behind the unusual term in your company’s name?
A. It’s the nickname our franchiser’s co-founder got in the United States Army. He and his wife offer junk removal franchises to military veterans and their families. The franchises, in turn, hire mostly military veterans. I work for a franchise in Wisconsin, sorting through the items that our drivers bring in and sending them either to the dump, a recycling facility, or a charity like Habitat for Humanity. I also maintain our trucks and equipment; I have a mechanical background.
What did you do in the military?
I served in the United States Marine Corps as a welder in the artillery impact area at Camp Pendleton. Since then I’ve held various jobs, including 20 years as a machinist, but the last 10 years were pretty dark. I got laid off and couldn’t find another job. My daughter was killed in a hit-and-run accident, and my wife divorced me. I was drinking, spent some time in jail, and ended up homeless for awhile.
How did you find this job?
A Department of Veterans Affairs Compensated Work Therapy program took me under their wing and found me several positions, like dishwasher, that weren’t for me. Last year they put me in touch with this franchise, and a counselor accompanied me on the interview. I sold myself and started as a junk removal specialist.
To what do you attribute your promotion?
Recently we were hired to clean out two Veterans Affairs buildings in disrepair that were to be turned into apartments. I played a major part in the project. Several high-ranking V.A. officials toured the buildings and were pretty surprised. I don’t think they had faith in me. I was promoted after that.
What’s a favorite part of the job?
Andy Weins, who co-owns this franchise, lets me keep some of the items people throw away and I repurpose them. I stay at a veterans center where most people are on a fixed income or have a disability, so I give them household items such as coffee makers and microwaves. They really appreciate it.
What is one of your challenges?
Sometimes I think I’m still 30. I come in on weekends, which surprised Andy. I joke about it and tell him it’s to make up for the times during the week when I have to stop and catch my breath. But really, I just want to.
What would you tell other vets who might need help?
Trust the professionals; they’re trained to assist veterans. At first I fought everything the staff told me, but I finally got it.