Success Stories

Walter

For nearly three decades, Walter’s world was defined by the unforgiving confines of prison. At age 25, his life in a tailspin, he was given a life sentence. The only freedom he could grasp during those years was what existed above him — the endless expanse of the sky where clouds drifted lazily and birds soared with unbridled liberty. To Walter, they were symbols of an existence he could only dream of.

In 2022 a glimmer of hope rose over the horizon. Governor John Bel Edwards signed Walter’s clemency recommendation, extending to him the same freedom opportunity those clouds and birds had enjoyed for so long. As he took his first steps beyond the prison’s confines he couldn’t help but feel like he was soaring.

But his newfound freedom came with the recognition that what was once “normal” had become anything but. But through Parole Project Walter was able to adjust to and thrive in his new normalcy. “I remember going into Walmart for the first time and just being overwhelmed in every way,” he said. “It was a lot to get used to and I don’t think I could have done it without the people at Parole Project.”

Parole Project taught him more than he imagined he needed to know. “Technology alone would have taken me forever to understand,” he said, adding that the classes on social media and online scams helped him learn to protect himself as he rebuilt his life.

Now 56, Walter has been home for just over a year as he continues on a journey of rebirth and redemption. He resides with his parents in Houma, Louisiana, and every day is a testament to his commitment to making them proud. “They didn’t give up on me, so I want to show them – and myself – that I’m not the kid who made that mistake.”

Walter found his footing at Petroleum Helicopter International, a leader in commercial helicopter operations nationally and worldwide. The company’s fleet serves as a lifeline, providing passenger flights for offshore petroleum workers and vital aeromedical transports.

Each workday his alarm clock rings at 4 a.m. as he prepares for his 12-hour shift. Walter’s role is nothing short of critical. From handling baggage to conducting meticulous maintenance checks, he ensures that everything is properly prepared for the daily flights. “I have to make sure everyone and everything get where they need to be,” he said. “I am responsible for ensuring the safety and success of each flight.”

On PHI’s bustling tarmac, the atmosphere is a symphony of motion and sound. Each day Walter walks through the rows of sleek helicopters, doing pre-flight checks as they stand like sentinels, their rotors spinning lazily in the breeze and reflecting sunlight off their polished exteriors. As the birds takeoff and land, ground crews give gestures and hand signals in a choreographed dance of precision, guiding the choppers in or directing them toward designated parking spots. The air is alive with the rhythmic beat of rotor blades slicing through the atmosphere, creating a distinctive whooping sound while the radio chatter between the control tower and pilots adds a layer of ordered communication to the lively scene. It is here where Walter has found a renewed sense of purpose.

Amidst this cacophony of sights and sounds Walter is building his future and a better version of himself. His journey is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the power of second chances. Each day he proves that redemption is possible, no matter how long the road may be.

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