Hiring Our Heroes has announced that a sweepstakes winner for a 2021 Toyota 4Runner was awarded to an Army Veteran who learned about the contest through VA’s weekly #VetResources newsletter.

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Ernest Knight (shown above, third from left in a pink shirt) enlisted in the Army with one goal in mind – to retire after serving 20 years. Unfortunately, his Army career was cut short after he suffered an injury while deployed.

After being honorably discharged at the rank of specialist, Knight searched for his next course of action.

Through VA’s Veteran Readiness and Employment (VR&E) program in Salem, Virginia, Knight received assistance and educational support to guide him through what he described as a rough military transition. Formerly known as the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment program (VocRehab), VR&E provides Veterans with job training, employment accommodations, resume development, and job-seeking skills coaching.

“Being injured changed my course,” he said. “So, I had to figure out what I was going to do. Thankfully, I had the help of VA, so I was able to get the support that I needed.”

His impactful experience led Knight to pursue a career in criminal justice and psychology. He has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice with a minor in psychology from Radford University. In December 2020, Knight completed his master’s degree in criminal justice with an emphasis in critical incident management from Saint Leo University.

“That’s part of the reason why I went into criminal justice and psychology. I want to help other people,” he said.

Knight would like to work at a federal agency, like FEMA, TSA, VA, or Homeland Security, but he hasn’t yet been able to secure federal employment.

“One [job] that I’m particularly interested in is educational specialist, especially with the Army. I feel like I can really be a benefit there,” he said. “I’ve been in the Army so I can relate with other soldiers and Veterans in regards to helping them with pursuing a career or education.”

VA helped me; it will help you, too

Knight is quick to tell you how VA guided him during his military transition, but most recently, VA’s impact on his life was a bit serendipitous.

Hiring Our Heroes awarded Knight with a 2021 Toyota 4Runner as the winner of the Committed to America’s Heroes sweepstakes, a contest that he entered through a link he saw in VA’s VetResources newsletter last year.

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Knight was up late one night scrolling through his inbox when he saw an email from VA about the sweepstakes. He kept scrolling.

“I was like, ‘No, that’s not real.’ Who gives away a car?” Knight said.

Later, Knight saw the sweepstakes in another email from VA. This time, he stopped and doubtfully entered the sweepstakes.

“I remember I told my fiancé Julio, ‘I’ll put my name, even though it’s never going to happen” Knight said. “And surprisingly, it happened. When I found out that I won a car, I was totally shocked.”

Knight was randomly selected among more than 85,000 entries. The sweepstakes were open to all active duty, reserve and guard service members, Veterans and military spouses late last year.

Knight was presented with a 2021 Toyota 4Runner during a ceremony on March 30, 2021, at the DeLuca Toyota dealership in Ocala, Florida. This is the third time that Hiring Our Heroes has awarded a Toyota to a member of the military community.

“Hiring Our Heroes is proudly celebrating its tenth year of impact. Our success has been dependent upon the strength of public-private partnerships with organizations such as the Department of Veterans Affairs and Toyota. We are thrilled to present a new vehicle to Ernest Knight, a third-generation Veteran who proudly served in the U.S. Army,” said Adam Rocke, senior director of Events and Programs at Hiring Our Heroes during the March 30 vehicle presentation at the DeLuca Toyota dealership.

“This isn’t a handout,” Rocke said. “This is a hand-up that will help you and Julio on your journey to find[ing] meaningful employment.”

During his acceptance speech, Knight recounted his military transition journey to the small crowd of spectators and those watching the Facebook Live stream.

“It wasn’t easy for me,” he recalled. “VA helped me and I am very thankful for that. I encourage other Veterans to use the resources available at VA. They helped me. They will help you too.”

Since 2011, Toyota has partnered with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring Our Heroes on the Personal Branding Initiative to address the issue of unemployment among Veterans, transitioning service members and military spouses by helping more than 100,000 job seekers translate their military skills, volunteer experiences and expertise into meaningful employment. Learn more about Toyota continues to demonstrate its ongoing commitment to help the military community successfully integrate into the American workforce at HiringOurHeroes.org/Toyota.

The sharing of any non-VA information does not constitute an endorsement of products and services on the part of VA.


Elizabeth Garcia is the director of Strategic Communications at Hiring Our Heroes.

Project Sanctuary hosts Veteran and active duty families through six-day therapeutic retreats at locations across the United States.Project Sanctuary helps military families heal
Farmer Veteran Coalition is a nationwide organization and the largest non-profit organization that guides Veterans to careers in agriculture.Farmer Veteran Coalition helps Veterans into agriculture careers

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7 Comments

  1. Fyr Bal May 2, 2021 at 7:11 pm

    WHERE IS MY PROTECTION UNDER THE 1st, & 2ndAMENDMENTS?
    This is How SHADY, UN-TRUTHFUL HYPOCRITICAL People/Big Business RUIN A VETS REPUTATION!!!
    I am a Disabled Combat Veteran of (2005-2006) Operation Iraqi Freedom.
    I am awaiting another VA claim from Jul 2018
    I have a CCW lic.
    I am told I SCARED MGT because I am a Member of the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association!!!
    I have been working for KR-oger co as a Butcher, for Over 28 yrs. I have been Demoted 2 times due to my Physical injuries, I am no longer able to do the job I did before I went to Iraq.
    I believe my Problems Started after I turned in my Military Retirement papers to my Mgr. After that I was told by my manager to “TAKE that SH$T off your hat!!! THAT SH$T is an OIF Combat Veteran ribbons hat, a USA Flag pin and my Wounded Warrior pin!!!
    I asked him to Apologize and he said “NO” I went to His boss and She said “ITS JUST A FLAG and PINS”
    I was recently transferred to a new location because my supervisor (of 3 months’ time) had a problem with me confronting him on referring to me as a PATHETIC CRIPPLE and being LAZY, I also came to the aide of some part-time employee’s.
    I have been at the previous location since 2008 with 2 different supervisors’ and 3 different store managers with NO PROBLEMS.
    I am at the new location less than 3 weeks and I am terminated for being a Verbal Threat to EVERYONE! I talked about a video game called Assassins’ Creed, I also was overheard asking a fellow hunting enthusiast “I like to go to the shooting range (in the winter because I can’t ride my Motorcycle) after work, would you like to join me?”
    I am asking for some help in Who to contact. They are treating me like I am going to SNAP from a PERCEIVED PTSD!!!
    The KR-oger co wants ALL of my MILITARY, VA and Private Medical records.
    Do you have any ideas? Do you know of ANY JAG (Ret) officers that might be able to HELP ME?
    I went through a mediation hearing with the UF-CW Union and the KR-oger co. In which I was portrayed as a Bat $&!+ Crazy Combat Vet that would SNAP & KILL these 2 people, ALL their relatives, and neighbors, due to the PERCEIVED PTSD!
    Well NOW You KNOW What My family has been going Through!!!
    I have been informed the KR-oger co has RETALIATED by Demoting a few of My Supporters!
    Thanks for your time.

  2. John Bass April 24, 2021 at 7:08 am

    Unfortunately, his Army career was cut short after he suffered an injury while deployed to Kuwait during Operation Enduring Freedom. Kuwait? OEF was Afghanistan. Green Zone must have been rough back in those days.

    [Editor: Thanks. This has been fixed.]

  3. Monte Daugharty April 23, 2021 at 4:24 pm

    Awesome and congrats to Mr. Knight!

  4. Claudia April 22, 2021 at 11:33 am

    Robert, I’m also looking for the free Retreat site.

  5. Tom Wichman April 22, 2021 at 11:10 am

    @ Paul and Robert, use “Search VAntage Point, top right of this page. I put in the term “Free Veteran Retreat” and it shows a retreat happening in Maryland.

  6. Paul Christian Wyher April 22, 2021 at 9:23 am

    I am interesting in understanding about the veteran retreat . I am a veteran who only served 2 years here in Great Lakes , Illinois and Phliadelphia Naval Hospital . I did not suffer any major trauma or major psychological trauma. I do have friends who spent more time in the service. I would like to find out about this for them. They are aware of the help that the VA offers and have received help from the VA themselves. Both are now being treated for non-Covid -19 related medical issues at present. I was wondering if either of them would benefit by going to this retreat ?

  7. Robert j fencl April 21, 2021 at 7:53 pm

    I am looking for the free veteran retreat that was on the title ?…

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