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Freedom native releases travel memoir

'Dream job' helps veterans receive VA earned disability benefits
By Fran Gonzalez | Nov 12, 2020
Courtesy of: Tyler Hadyniak Tyler Hadyniak writes about his experiences crisscrossing the country in "There and Back Again."

Portland — From June 2019 through March 2020, Tyler Hadyniak drove to 40 different states helping veterans get disability compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

He started as a law clerk at the South Portland firm of Jackson MacNichol in 2017, and since then has become a travel attorney representing military veterans. His grandfather — a career Army officer and Vietnam War veteran — inspired him to enter the veterans disability benefits field.

Hadyniak said he began keeping a travel journal, in which he recounted his experiences, reflections and lessons learned while crisscrossing the country. He realized the unique stories of the veterans he helped, their struggles, and the diverse characters he met along the way would make for an interesting book.

"There and Back Again: America Through the Eyes of a Traveling Veterans Disability Attorney," Hadyniak’s first book, is being published by Atlantic Publishing in December.

“When COVID-19 hit, on the advice of my grandfather,” Hadyniak said, he pieced together a memoir about his travels and began to look for a publisher.

“I spruced it up,” he said, “added narration, then shopped it around.”

Hadyniak grew up in Freedom and graduated from Mount View High School in 2011. He studied political science and psychology at the University of Maine at Farmington and in 2018 graduated from the University of Maine School of Law in Portland.

He considers his current occupation a dream job, affording him the opportunity to see much of the country, though he has not been able to travel since March 11 because of the pandemic. The Department of Veterans Affairs, he said, is a victim of its own bureaucracy, and veterans' cases are often difficult to prove.

The book deals with the obstacles veterans face after serving and how his worldview as a lifelong Mainer was changed by months of being on the road.

The best part of the job, he said, was the sincere thanks he has received from veterans and the sense of relief they expressed afterward. “It’s moving,” he said.

His transition to becoming a traveling lawyer, he said, also evolved when he did not have many obligations. “I have no kids, no pets,” he said. He did, however, start a relationship with a woman he married in August.

They began their courtship last year as Hadyniak started his new role traveling throughout the country.

“She was very understanding,” he said. “Catherine was still in nursing school and working at a full-time job.” Hadyniak said that while he appreciates his current situation, if they were to have a baby, he would give up his job for a position that would allow him to be home more often.

In the course of writing the book, he was also dealing with the loss Nov. 5, 2019, of his grandmother, Sallyann Hadyniak, who played a big part in his life.

Hadyniak said he kept in contact with his grandmother often, with both having big U.S. maps and placing pins at places he had visited. “She was living vicariously during our conversations," he said.

Sallyann, a longtime Republican Journal town columnist, was the “single most influential, inspiring and motivating person,” Hadyniak said previously. His book is dedicated to Sallyann and to his maternal grandfather. “I’ve learned so many life lessons from them,” he said.

As for his book, “By the time they turn to the last page, I hope readers will have developed an appreciation for this beautiful country, and those who signed up to keep it safe,” Hadyniak said.

“Veterans’ service — and the consequences of their service — does not end once they leave the military. Sometimes it is a lifelong struggle to just survive,” he said. "People need to recognize that.”

Half of all proceeds from “There and Back Again” will go toward the national charity Disabled American Veterans, which provides free, professional assistance and outreach to veterans and their families in obtaining benefits and services earned through military service and provided by the VA.

For more information, contact Hadyniak at 323-3462, or email tchmaine@gmail.com.

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