Beyond the Card: A Veteran Finds His Home


| 4 min read

Tim Stencel Blue Cross Blue Shield Veteran Job Employment
Tim Stencel had always wanted to see the world, which is why he enlisted in the Navy as a high schooler. “As soon as I graduated and finished boot camp, I went over to Croatia and Bosnia,” he says. “Next I was on a supply ship that toured the Mediterranean—I got to go to almost every country in Europe and North Africa—then was sent to a destroyer in the Persian Gulf where we did a lot of humanitarian missions.”
But back in Michigan after leaving the Navy, he felt a lot less certain about what he wanted to do. “I went to school to get an associate’s degree in business administration, then worked some entry level jobs at fast food restaurants and gas stations,” he says. “In 2012 I got hired by a steel mill, but in 2015 they closed their doors and everybody got laid off.” That’s when Tim found out about an organization called Michigan Works, which helped him with his resume and also organizes job fairs. Amazingly, it was the very first event Tim attended that turned out to be a game-changer. “The mixer was just for veterans and I didn’t even want to go because of how depressed I’d been feeling about things,” he says. “But I forced myself to get cleaned up and walk out the door. And in the span of the two hours I was there, my life completely turned around. I went from having no hope to having all the hope in the world.” What happened in those two hours? Tim talked with a Human Resources representative from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. “I’d been applying online to work at Blue Cross every year since 2007, but never got accepted,” he says. “I knew people who worked there and they all told me what a great company it was to work for, which is why I kept trying.” As someone who enjoys chatting with others face-to-face, the setting was ideal for Tim. “It felt just like we were having a normal conversation,” he says. “It was really comfortable and non-intimidating.”
“And in the span of the two hours I was there, my life completely turned around. I went from having no hope to having all the hope in the world.”
Just two days after meeting the HR representative, Tim found himself interviewing for a job as a member services representative. And the very next day he found out he was accepted into the training. “It really was life-changing,” he says. “I felt like I could finally breathe. I’d been doing so much to move myself in the right direction and doors kept closing on me. All of a sudden a door cracked open and I walked in and felt like I was truly wanted.” It turned out, the job couldn’t be a better fit. “It’s rewarding to guide someone through their benefits and help them see their health renewed,” says Tim. “While some of the calls involve people who are frustrated or upset, I rely on my past military training for handling pressure and conflict resolution. I really excel at changing people’s minds about Blue Cross.”
He’s also found a calling in the veteran-focused Employee Resource Network at Blue Cross. “I grew up being taught that if a company gives you an opportunity to work for them, you have to return the favor and do what you can for the company,” he says. “This is the first job I’ve had that focuses on celebrating diversity and inclusion, so I jumped right in and started getting involved.” Whether he’s organizing a table dedicated to missing soldiers for Memorial Day or asking everyone to bring in a photo of a veteran who has touched their lives for Veteran’s Day, Tim is always thinking of how he can honor those who have served. The job hasn’t just given Tim a future to be excited about, it’s also had a huge impact on his health. “I became a member of Blue Care Network and finally got the treatment I needed for the chronic pain I’ve had since I was in the Navy,” he says. “I’ve also had to get a kidney removed and receive treatment for a blood clot—things that I quickly got taken care of because of my health plan. I’m finally not too worried about my health since I know Blue Cross has my back.” While he couldn’t be happier with his present, Tim still has some goals for the future. “I have 25 more years of work in me before I retire and I want to stay with Blue Cross the entire time,” he says. And then there’s the reason he enlisted in the Navy in the first place: travel. “I’ve seen every ocean except for the Pacific,” he says. “I have some family on Oahu and am hoping that next year I can fly there and celebrate my last ocean.”
MI Blues Perspectives is sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, a nonprofit, independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association