The Kandahar sun beat down on Casey Collier as he walked back to Camp Nathan Smith. The notepad tucked into his army combat uniform contained the notes he took on patrol in his role as a U.S. Army public affairs specialist, but a few sheets of paper contained the more flowery language of poems to his wife. They had been married one week before he reported for basic training.
Fourteen years later, Collier’s notepad looks a bit different. There are still poems to his wife, but the rest of the paper is now filled with notes from stories he writes about Harris County Precinct 4.
Collier is a communications specialist and has worked for the Precinct since 2021. He’s one of 17 veterans who served our country in the U.S. armed forces and continue to serve residents every day as employees with Harris County Precinct 4.
“It definitely shaped who I am as a person and a teammate,” Collier said. “I learned to trust my unit-mates with my life – people with whom I may not have even shared a smile at a bus stop before enlisting. I learned to look out for them as they looked out for me. I learned about comradery in a way that no other venue could have taught me.”
While work in civilian life may look much different than active duty, some veterans like Esmeralda Rodriguez, an operations accounting analyst in Precinct 4’s finance department, feel like the mission is still the same.
“Both have this one common goal,” Rodriguez said. “My time in the military was about serving my country and my civilian work life is about serving my community.”
Rodriguez served in the US Army, Headquarters and Headquarters Company with the 24th Transportation Battalion. She was stationed in Virginia and as part of a detachment unit she was deployed to many parts of the world, exposing her to people from different cultures and backgrounds.
Working with people with different perspectives in the armed forces helped other veterans like Hank Griffith learn how to build productive and efficient teams.
Griffith served in the US Army Reserves, and was a Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) Officer. Near the end of his service term, he was a battalion intelligence officer with the 490th Chemical Battalion. Today, he’s the Director of Finance for Harris County Precinct 4.
“It has taught me different management styles and how you need to adjust to who you’re working with,” Griffith said, adding that his service also put seemingly major work incidents in perspective.
“In the civilian world, everything is not life-or-death like it can be in the military world,” he said.
In addition to navigating team dynamics, Davida Elmore said she developed several transferable skills in her time in Shipping and Receiving for the Army National Guard.
During active duty, she made sure her fellow Soldiers had the beans, boots, and bullets they needed throughout the Somalia conflict. Today, Elmore is the administrative assistant for Talent Acquisition for Precinct 4.
“I learned how to work with a team, and different personalities,” Elmore said. “It also taught me how to use certain computer operating systems, being flexible, being on time. I think a lot of those skills have helped me here.”
In an internal Veterans Day message to staff, Commissioner Lesley Briones acknowledged the skills and servant hearts each veteran within Precinct 4 possesses.
“It is an honor to work alongside you,” Commissioner said. “You are the embodiment of heart, hustle, and higher standards, and have set the bar for public service that we all strive to reach. In addition, your perspective is an invaluable part of our efforts to advance opportunity and justice for all people.”