U.S. Navy military spouse Andrea Unzueta now tackles San Diego traffic without a monthly car payment — all because she attended a Hiring Our Heroes’ Amplify workshop.
Hiring Our Heroes and Toyota North America recently presented Unzueta, the 2022 Committed to America’s Heroes sweepstakes winner, with a new Toyota Highlander XSE at Toyota of El Cajon in California. Unzueta’s husband is an active-duty sailor. Hiring Our Heroes randomly selected Unzueta from thousands of veterans and military spouses who entered the national contest.
“I am incredibly honored and grateful to be selected as the winner,” she said. “Thank you, Hiring Our Heroes and Toyota, for this life-changing sweepstakes and your steadfast commitment to America’s heroes. … I am forever grateful and will pay it forward by using this opportunity to further contribute to helping our military.”
Living Paycheck to Paycheck
Unzueta heard about the annual Committed to America’s Heroes sweepstakes at a virtual Amplify workshop hosted by Hiring Our Heroes. She doubted her chances of winning, but entered the contest anyway because as she said, “you never know.”
Months later, Hiring Our Heroes notified Unzueta about her selection. Faced with the surprising news, Unzueta was at a loss for words. Her primary feeling was gratitude.
“Winning the sweepstakes is such a blessing for my family,” she said.
Winning the sweepstakes is such a blessing for my family.Andrea Unzueta, 2022 Committed to America’s Heroes Sweepstakes Winner
The past year hasn’t been an easy one. Unzueta left her friends, family, and job to relocate from her hometown of North Palm Springs, California, to her husband’s Navy base in San Diego. Despite having a bachelor’s degree and applying for numerous jobs, Unzueta remains unemployed.
“I couldn’t get hired. I was always told, ‘you aren’t going to be in this area long enough,’ and it was such a disappointment,” she said. “You are trying to build your own career while supporting your husband’s career. He has a career in the military and he’s doing what he wants to do. I want a career too.”
This young Navy couple also confronted San Diego’s cost of living with one income.
“When we first got married, we lived paycheck to paycheck and worried about buying groceries,” Unzueta said.
Unfortunately, Unzueta’s employment challenges are common among military spouses. For decades, military spouses reported higher unemployment rates than the general population. The current unemployment rate is 21%. Additionally, military spouses encounter difficulties maintaining meaningful careers equivalent to their education and professional experience.
Now, thanks to Unzueta’s decision to enter the Committed to America’s Heroes sweepstakes, the couple has one less monthly expense.
“Winning this Toyota is an amazing opportunity. We don’t have to worry about having the money for a vehicle. It is such a blessing for us,” Unzueta said.
First Military Spouse to Win a New Toyota
Unzueta’s support is critical to her husband’s commitment to the Navy, and as a military spouse, she has made sacrifices alongside him, said Eric Eversole, president of Hiring Our Heroes and vice president at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
“[Military spouses] face challenges as they worked to get an education, find employment, and all of the other things that really matter to realizing the American dream,” Eversole said. “And they’re doing it because they are serving their country, just like their service members are. Their mission may be different, but it’s no less important.”
Unzueta was the first military spouse to win the Committed to America’s Heroes sweepstakes. She is still searching for full-time employment while enrolled in college. Unzueta is working on a master’s degree in leadership with a concentration in homeland security and emergency management at Grand Canyon University.
“We couldn’t be prouder of having Unzueta represent Hiring Our Heroes and Toyota with this new vehicle,” Eversole said.
Providing a new vehicle to a deserving member of the military community is possible through a long-standing partnership between Hiring Our Heroes and Toyota. This is the fifth time Hiring Our Heroes gave away a new Toyota through the sweepstakes.
“We hope your family makes many memories in your new vehicle,” said Dan Suh, eCommerce Field Manager at Toyota North America, to Unzueta during the vehicle presentation.