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Wearing the Uniform

Mary Burich | August 1, 2018


How Marine veteran Angelita Zynda helps others adapt to civilian life

A straightforward question about punctuality once threw Angelita Zynda for a loop. After four years in the United States Marine Corps, she assumed showing up on time was a given.

“I stumbled on that question. I didn’t expect it,” she says, remembering the job interview that brought her to Hormel Foods nearly 15 years ago. “I grew up to be punctual, and the Marines solidified it. Being late wasn’t an option for me.” After a moment’s hesitation, Angelita assured her interviewer of her dependability. If she learned anything as a Marine, it was to honor her commitments.

She got the job, and she never forgot the lesson she learned that day: There are differences between military and civilian life; it takes time to get acclimated. So, when Hormel Foods instituted an employee resource group for veterans of the armed forces, Angelita was among the first to roll up her sleeves and get it going. In fact, she was one of HMVET’s founding co-chairs.

“When people get out of the service, there’s an adjustment period,” she explains. “[Thanks to HMVET], there are people to talk with and written information if people don’t want to talk. We can team them up with others who have been in the service.”

I just felt like the Marine Corps was the best suit for me.

Angelita Zynda

Angelita now serves the group as an at-large member, attending meetings and helping out whenever she’s needed, including with HMVET’s essay contest for school children.

“The ERG has made a difference to vets,” she says. “When you’re in the military, your life is pretty regimented. It’s very time-oriented.” In addition, there’s generally a clear chain of command, and set processes and procedures, not to mention the difficulties faced by those who were in danger, injured and/or traumatized. According to a 2011 study conducted by Pew Research, a vet nearly half of all vets who served after 9/11 struggled upon re-entering civilian life. It’s simply not the same as the military.

At Hormel Foods, HMVET attempts to bridge the two worlds.

Always Faithful

As her high school career was coming to a close, Angelita was unsure of what her next chapter should be. She turned her attention to the military, and more specifically, to the Marines. “My uncle and cousin were Marines,” she says.

She enlisted upon graduation and rose to the rank of corporal, serving four years as a field radio operator. She also worked with the military police and performed various clerical and guard duties. In addition to giving her a career path and marketable skills, the Marines gave Angelita a life partner. She met her husband, Todd, at Camp Pendleton, where they were both stationed. They were married in 1991.

“Yes, my poor kids have two Marine parents,” Angelita laughs.

Angelita and Todd decided against making a career of the military. There was a good chance they were going to have to live apart for some time. Neither wanted that, so they both received honorable discharges and entered civilian life. The couple headed for the Midwest – Todd’s birthplace – and then moved to New Orleans, where he trained as a police officer. Several years later, Minnesota was their goal. Todd took a job as a state trooper. Living close to his family was a bonus for the young family.

While Todd was launching his second career, Angelita was working as a stay-at-home mom to their three children and “did a few other little things” before setting her sights on Hormel Foods. She loves it.

“The best part of working for Hormel Foods is the diversity and the variety of things available,” she says. “It’s an older company that celebrates new things. The older things ground you, but the company likes to diversify and look ahead.”

Someone’s In the Kitchen

Among the many opportunities afforded to Angelita by Hormel Foods was the chance to work in the kitchen with Ron DeSantis, a certified master chef. She is a cooking enthusiast who is able to be more daring with her recipes now that her children are young adults and willing to try different things. Appearing in the “Cooking & Culture” series was a special thrill.

“It was an awesome experience. How many times would you have an opportunity to work with a master chef?” she asks. “Yet, the way he explains the whole cooking process. He’s so inclusive. He doesn’t talk down to you.”

In addition to cooking, Angelita enjoys furniture refinishing and gardening. This summer, she’ll travel to Omaha, Neb., again for the College World Series, combining two great loves: baseball and her kids. “My oldest lives in Omaha,” she says.

In the meantime, she’s looking forward to trying her hand at the recipe she helped with on Cooking & Culture.

“I can’t wait to make it at home,” she says.