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Local 328 Brother Stephen McDonald grew up in Amesbury, Massachusetts and joined the US Army out of high school when he was 18 years old. He served two deployments to Afghanistan and in 2012 at the age of 20, he was a victim of an improvised explosive device (IED) attack there. He endured grievous injuries to both his legs, particularly his left.
After four and a half years of service, Stephen returned home to Massachusetts for numerous surgeries – including an ankle fusion to help minimize the pain – and rehabilitation. With his positive, can-do attitude and determination, he transitioned back to civilian life and in 2015 through the Helmets to Hardhats program, he joined the Carpenters union.
He says joining the carpentry apprenticeship program and carving a career path as a union carpenter was always on the back of his mind as his father Bruce is a member of Local 327.
“My dad is a proud 20-plus year member of Local 327 and was a foreman with HCarr (and Sons, Inc.) for a long time and is now a foreman with M.L. McDonald. Growing up, I always admired the work performed by my dad and I’m proud to follow his path and be a second-generation carpenter.”
Stephen graduated from the apprenticeship program two years ago and says he enjoys the work and responsibility that comes with being a journey-level carpenter.
Earlier this year, he received a setback and following advice from his doctors, his left leg was amputated at The Walter Reed Army Medical Center in May. After several months of rehabilitation and physical therapy, Stephen was glad to be able to return to the jobsite at the end of the summer. He says his time in the field has been very positive and is thankful for the support he’s received from the union and his employer, Sweeney Drywall Finishers.
“Damian Bell (General Superintendent at Sweeney) is a good guy and they’re taking really good care of me here. He’s been very supportive and would regularly contact me and check up on my progress. He’s been great this whole time,” said Stephen who is currently working at the Acton Elementary School.
Stephen says he recognizes and appreciates similarities between union construction and his military service. “I like the daily challenge of the work and being part of a Brotherhood is the closest thing to the camaraderie you get in the military. It’s a great fit and the Carpenters union is a very supportive union overall.”
In the next few months, Stephen will be a recipient of a newly designed prosthetic leg that’s currently being developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) which will help restore sensory feedback signals and improve walking performance and greatly reduce limb pain.
We wish Brother McDonald the very best in his next chapter, and we express our immense gratitude for his service and the sacrifice he made for our country.