Editor’s note: This week, Reuters Opinion is publishing five excerpts – one each day – from D.W. Gibson’s new book, Not Working, an oral history of the recession. Gibson spent months traveling across America talking to people who had been laid off.

Today’s story is Christine Zika’s. Christine is a veteran and small-business owner mostly from St. Louis and the surrounding towns. She is 40 and married to an electrical engineer.

Years ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I had an expectation of the life I was going to lead. And that life included being in public relations and communications. Instead, I went into the Army National Guard. After two years in college, I went there, and I served 13 years total, having served three deployments at different times. I served in Desert Storm. I also served during Operation Joint Endeavor, which was the Bosnian conflict, and then I also went to Kosovo.

When I came home from Desert Storm, I found myself with only two years of college. Even then, without a degree they didn’t want to hire you in public relations and corporate communications, which was my dream. So the next best thing was to go into nonprofit work. They want those skills; they want everything that you have. And so I went into nonprofits because they accepted me fully, and I believed in a lot of the things that I was doing. I worked for several local nonprofits in membership services. I worked public relations and communications, so newsletters and all sorts of things.

In 2002, I got hired by a local fraternity that helps children. They’re not a 501(c)(3), so they’re not really accountable to the donors or whatnot. And it is a social, fraternal organization, so they can pretty much do what they want do to. Is it their responsibility to keep me employed? No…I saw my job dissipating for a long period of time.