October 15, 2014 Opportunity

Army Veteran Accepts a Starbucks Job after a Live GMA Surprise

Not much gets by Penn Johnakin, but today ABC-TV and Starbucks totally surprised the U.S. Army veteran.

“Yeah, they got me,” he said, “in the best way.”

Johnakin’s career as a logistics specialist with the Army ended suddenly. During a routine medical exam, a heart condition was discovered and he received a medical discharge.

“That was a setback. I was going to be a lifer with 20 years plus in the military,” he said.

A return to the job market was a challenge, with Johnakin sending out more than 40 resumes and getting only a handful of responses. He's not alone. Over 500,000 veterans are unemployed, according to the Labor Department’s September report.

After learning about Starbucks initiative to hire at least 10,000 veterans and military spouses by the end of 2018, Johnakin applied at a store near his hometown of Winston-Salem, North Carolina where he’d moved to take care of his parents.

His interview with Starbucks was not typical because a reporter and camera crew from Good Morning America followed along to produce a broadcast feature called “You’re Hired!

GMA recorded an interview with Johnakin Monday, and called him back today (October 15) saying producers needed additional footage for the segment.

“I sat there and talked with Rachel Smith, the reporter, for over an hour,” he said. “Then I hear ‘we’re going live’ and I’m thinking, ‘wait, wait, what?’”

That was only the beginning of Johnakin’s surprise. Next, a barista handed him a tall Pike Place Roast coffee with the words “You’re hired” written on the cup.

Cue the marching band. Yes, the Mighty Marching Mustangs band from the high school Johnakin attended burst into the store. Finally, the reporter told him Starbucks is extending an offer to him to become the store’s shift supervisor if he wants the job.

“I accept,” he said with a smile.

Johnakin said he’s pleased to join Starbucks because of the company’s commitment to its partners (employees) and the military. He’s also looking forward to his role as a shift supervisor, which begins in a few weeks, because he will have some flexibility to take care of his family.

“I can’t believe they went through all of this for me,” Johnakin added. 


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