Veterans Are Finding Lasting Peace After Taking These Free Journeys into Nature for Months at a Time

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veteran on a hike looking out at the wilderness in the distance standing near a cliff

With countless US ex-service members struggling to readjust to civilian life following their deployment, more and more veterans are finding unparalleled success in alternative forms of rehabilitation and therapy.

Warrior Expeditions is a nonprofit that has proven nature to be an effective treatment for veterans suffering from PTSD. The organization helps veterans overcome their trauma by sending them on longterm nature excursions lasting two to six months.

The charity, which also provides all the gear and supplies necessary for the journeys, typically helps 30 to 40 veterans every year with about 10 different expeditions—all of which are facilitated at no cost to the vets.

The organization’s recently concluded 53-day trip through North Carolina is the first time that Warrior Expeditions has incorporated paddling, biking, and hiking into one of their excursions.

Marine Corps veteran Sean Gobin was inspired to launch the charity after he returned to the US in 2012 following several combat deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan. He then found peace and healing by hiking all 2,185 miles of the Appalachian Trail—and he knew that he wanted to share the experience with other veterans just like him.

There is no shortage of evidence on how spending time in nature can positively impact one’s physical and mental health. For the veterans participating in the Warrior Expedition outings, these therapeutic perks are also supplemented by the benefits of exercise, meditation, and sleeping outdoors.

Continue on to the Good News Network to read the complete article.

Paws of War Asks for Help to Bring Soldier’s Dog Back to America

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soldier pictured with her dog that lying on the grass next to her feet

Many people are aware that some military bases are being closed overseas and the soldiers are being brought home. What they may not know is that some of these soldiers have dogs that will be left behind to fend for themselves in an area of the world that doesn’t treat dogs with kindness.

One of those dogs is Meeka, who has been a loyal companion to Sergeant E, who is already back in the U.S., missing her dog, and has turned to Paws of War to help bring him back home to live with her.

“Anyone who has ever had a dog knows how difficult it would be to walk out on him one day and live with the idea that you may never see him again,” explains Robert Misseri, co-founder of Paws of War. “That’s exactly what has happened to Sergeant E, and we will make every effort to bring her dog to America to live out the rest of his days with her in a safe and loving environment.”

The bond between a dog and his human companions is special, particularly when you are someone living on a military basis thousands of miles from home. When Sergeant E first saw a dog wandering around the base that was showing signs of neglect and abuse, she had no idea that she would end up creating such a bond with him.

Naming him Meeka, the pair created an instant bond and connection. Every morning when she would leave the barracks she would see the dog, who would get excited for her attention. The dog would also spend time each morning alongside of her as she did her runs. The two became inseparable, but then she was sent home to the U.S. with very little notice, leaving Meeka on his own. He hid for a while, staying away from people out of fear, until other soldiers found a way to coax him closer by enticing him with food. They were able to catch him and have been holding him in a makeshift pen until Paws of War can help reunite him with Sergeant E.

“Ever since I returned home I’ve been worried about Meeka and miss him,” says Sergeant E. “I’m grateful that there is an organization like Paws of War that will help in such cases. I look forward to them bringing Meeka home to me. We have a bond that will last for many years to come.”

Paws of War is on a mission to help bring the dog back to the States, but needs the help of the public for it to happen. Transporting a dog across the world is not only costly, but it involves working with overseas organizations and volunteers to ensure that all medical records and paperwork are in order.

To support the effort to bring Meeka back to America, please make a donation at: 
https://pawsofwar.networkforgood.com.

Paws of War rescues dogs, provides them with proper training, and then pairs them with veterans who need service animals, all free of charge. They also help soldiers bring their dog back to America after serving in the Middle East. Those who would like to learn more about supporting Paws of War and its mission can go online to: http://pawsofwar.org.

About Paws of War

Paws of War is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) charitable organization that provides assistance to military members and their pets, rescues and trains dogs to be service dogs, and provides therapy dogs to veterans. To learn more about Paws of War and the programs provided or to make a donation visit its site at: http://pawsofwar.org.

Air Force Vet’s Business Franchises Take Flight

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Headshot of Don Stone

By Rhonda Sanderson

Don Stone’s entrepreneurial spirit first began when he learned to fly while serving in the Air Force. After leaving the service, Stone took his flight knowledge and chose to open his first business as a fixed-based operation, which is basically a gas station for planes, at a small airport in Colorado.

While it was a fun business overall, he faced challenges with the city and county governments that owned the airport. This experience helped him immensely for his next endeavor—owning and operating a franchise.

Stone’s first franchise was part of a 216-location hair salon company near Texas. After selling that business in 2000, he was immediately interested in purchasing another.

“My experience with franchising was what made me pursue future opportunities,” Stone shared. “I spoke to someone in Dallas about a mobile pet grooming business that wanted to expand and start franchising. Because of my experience with the hair salon franchise, I thought of using that same model to expand it, but instead ended up buying the business outright.”

After much due diligence, Stone realized it would be complicated to turn the mobile grooming business into a franchise. He was surprised to learn that mobile pet grooming salons are more complicated than the average person would expect, so instead of franchising, he kept the business as it was and it has since grown significantly. Stone now operates over 50 mobile grooming salons in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

As time went on, Stone continued to watch for a complementary business to purchase.

“I knew one of the founders of Pet Butler,” he said. “I watched the business as it grew and franchised.”

Once the Dallas/Fort Worth market opened, he jumped at the chance to diversify by adding a Pet Butler franchise to his current business model.

“It was easy for me to add on because we had the back-office services in place already,” Stone explained. “It was a great way to acquire a much-needed service, popular in the pet specialty services group.”

Stone was able to keep his focus on the same great services for pets in people’s homes or offices. He has a full-time manager and six scoopers—four having been a part of his organization for more than 10 years. And when Pet Butler was acquired by Spring-Green Enterprises in 2017, franchisees of Pet Butler received not only digital marketing help, but also back-office support—a huge advantage Stone says because he’s not tied to a desk.

The company’s National Call Center answers all calls from would be and existing customers, and provides immediate information to the franchise owner.

“Within minutes, we are on the phone with the customer solving any issues or schedule changes.” Stone said.

The back-office support team also handles customer billing and processes payments. Stone has also gotten his son involved with the Pet Butler end of the business, which, frankly, involves the back end of a dog! Stone has a dedicated, full-time Pet Butler manager, but he, too, scoops poop, and his son is learning to become a manager for the business by scooping poop as well.

“He will learn the business by doing, not by taking over,” Stone says.

In fact, all of Stone’s children are involved in both his Pet Butler and mobile grooming businesses. They came to them on their own, which was very important to Stone.

“It is interesting to get a different perspective from my kids,” said Stone, who is proud to build his businesses alongside his kids.

His advice to those veterans thinking about purchasing a Pet Butler franchise?

“You must have an entrepreneurial spirit, but you also need to follow the program,” Stone said, “The franchisor spends a lot of time and money on what works and what does not. A good franchisee will learn from that so they don’t repeat costly mistakes.”

Stone added, “If you’re in the pet business already or are looking for a business in a booming industry, take a serious look at this. Ninety percent of the things you need to know and do are already figured out for you. It’s a great business.”

Pet Butler was acquired in 2017 by Spring-Green Enterprises, the parent company of 43-year-old Spring-Green Lawn Care and SGE Marketing Services. They currently have 30 franchisees located in 26 states with plans to open 60 more within the next 5 years.

To learn more about how Pet Butler serves pets and their people, visit their website here.

To inquire about a franchise, call (844) 777-8608 or visit their website here.

StableStrides: Why Horses are Used for Therapy for Veterans

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A man wearing a camoflauge shirt, looking at a black horse

by April Phillips, StableStrides

Horses are not only “good for the inside of a man,” but uniquely suited for mental health therapy for veterans due to both instinct and behavior.

When paired with a human, a horse will intuitively react to behavioral patterns or body language from the human. This gives insight into how a person is being perceived. Because they are prey animals, horses are constantly on the lookout for danger and respond quickly with either confrontation or flight. This instinct allows for a deeper level of intervention with a therapist that surpasses any other mental health treatment.

StableStrides is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit whose primary focus is mental health therapy with horses. Situated in the large military community of Colorado Springs, CO, StableStrides is uniquely positioned to serve veterans, active duty servicemembers and military families. On a mission to significantly improve the lives of people through a connection with horses, StableStrides exists because of horses and their ability to touch the lives of people.

Horses and humans share a history that goes back to ancient times and has continued to today. Their role in medicine was first prescribed by Hippocrates (460 BC-375 BC) as a form of natural movement that strengthened the body. Hippocrates, the “Father of Medicine,” believed in health that united body and mind and studied treatment for trauma and mental healthcare. Since then, relationships between horse and human has been studied and incorporated into modern medical practices, both physical and mental.

The physical aspects of horseback riding are used to develop physical strength, muscle development and other physical benefits, while the relationship between horse and human is known to strengthen both mind and spirit. Today, the term Equine Assisted Activities and Therapies (EAAT) defines the use of the horse in recreational and medical intervention. A large portion of EAAT is focused on veterans and their healing journeys during and after service. When partnered with a horse, a veteran is asking the horse to enter into a relationship with them that requires mutual trust and some degree of vulnerability.

One veteran reflects on his mental health sessions at StableStrides by asking:

“How could they go from resting and relaxed to full alert, with a first instinct to run, then to relax again, in seconds? How they could let go of that tension and anxiety and just “be?” As a herd animal, they entrust leadership to the strongest. That leader makes the decisions for the herd for as long as it’s capable or trusted. How can a prey animal, the horse, come to trust an apex predator, a human, with their safety? What a concept. This huge, powerful animal, easily capable of killing me, that fears me because I am a predator, could come to trust and work for me because it wants to.”

As prey animals, centuries of domestication have done little to lessen the horse’s response to danger. They understand that their best chance in escaping danger is to flee. As a result, the horse’s “fight-or-flight” instinct is used for decision making. In addition, horses are extremely perceptive and communicate with body language to convey fear, anger, calm or anxiety.

In a herd, each member relies on the leaders in the hierarchy to make decisions for the safety of the herd, if that leader can be trusted. When in the absence of a herd, the horse will determine if the human is to be trusted as the leader. If not, the horse will decide on his own what is safest.

Therapists have selected horses to incorporate into therapy due to these characteristics, including what many call “mirroring of emotions”. While horses aren’t mirrors, they will often reflect their leader’s emotions. If their leader senses danger and responds with fear, so will the horse. If the horse senses calm in their leader, the horse will likewise be calm, trusting their leader’s instinct. In mental health therapy, the therapist incorporates the horse and the relationship between veteran and horse for a dynamic and therapeutic environment. Through the horse’s reactivity, a veteran and therapist are able to examine and process behavioral reactions or emotional incongruencies. This requires the veteran to be present and mindful as to what is unfolding, and to be transparent about reactions.

Many organizations such as StableStrides exist for the horse-human connection and improve lives through EAAT. Through a connection with horses, mental health therapy strengthens families and individuals. Because of the horse’s unique qualities and instincts, incorporating horses into mental health allows for a therapeutic intervention that surpasses any other form of mental health therapy.

Photo Credit: Amy May Images 

 

 

 

What You Know is Only the Beginning

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Aliahu “Alli” Bey's Headshot

by Jackie Hobson

Aliahu “Alli” Bey is a husband, father of 3, and a US Army Aviation veteran entrepreneur. After gathering nearly two decades of engineering and project management experience, Alli decided he would prefer life without the corporate politics.

Utilizing his experience, he started his first small business, Haight Bey, in June of 2014. He spent 14 long months writing proposals from his basement and making ends meet by moonlighting at a small food manufacturer in the evenings and working as a boot and ski technician during the day at a local ski resort.

In July of 2015, he won his first Department of Defense contract worth more than $47 million dollars. Over the past 5 years he has added several Prime and Subcontracts to their project portfolio, and most recently stood up a cybersecurity compliance company called Totem Technologies.

Helping Other Veteran Business Owners

Bey volunteers his time and donates company profits to helping other veterans and minorities start and grow their businesses. He is a board member of the Utah African American Chamber of Commerce and Co-Chairman of the Warrior Rising board, a nationally-recognized organization that helps veteran entrepreneurs. Bey developed over 3000 square feet of incubator space within the Haight Bey and Totem.tech facilities. He currently supports two veteran-owned businesses— one is a USAF Minority Veteran, Woman-owned Human Resource startup called Pyramid Edge, and the second one is a USN-owned machine shop called Fox Machining.

Haight Bey workforce employees standing around a table
The Haight Bey workforce is comprised of over 60 percent veterans

Bey’s advice to those thinking of starting a business:

Stick to what you know: My first contract win was in support of a tactical weather system utilized by the USAF and Marine Corp. This was not luck—it was experience, patience, and relationships. I worked over a decade on this system for the manufacturer, and then as a program manager for a large Prime contractor. I assisted with engineering, deploying, servicing and supporting. I knew this system inside and out.

I had and continue to have great relationships with the manufacturer and the government program management team. What you know will get you started, but who you know, and better yet—who knows you—is a cornerstone in building and growing a successful company.

Focus on quality: Our chief cybersecurity engineer has always said to me, “Build a quality product and the customers will come.” We all know that nobody wants a cheap product that’s going to fall apart after a few uses. What we don’t understands as clearly is that a quality product requires a collective mindset of those around you. From my salesperson not over promising and clearly defining what will be delivered, to our project manager ensuring that we are constantly communicating and delivering exactly what our customers expect, everyone in the process must share the same desire of delivering quality.

A group filming Travis Bell's weather program
Program Manager Travis Bell, teaches the Air Force about their sustaining methods and support of their tactical weather program.

Don’t depend on your set-aside status: All too often I find within our veteran and minority business community individuals that expect to be handed business opportunities solely on their set-aside status i.e. Woman, Veteran, Minority, etc. In business, your set-aside status is a good thing, but if you have failed to focus on what and who you know, and delivering a quality product or service, your set-aside will never become relevant.

Get multiple mentors: You can never have enough people around to ask questions. I often seek advice on the same topic from multiple mentors, knowing each will have an answer based on their unique experiences. Sometimes I get widely varying opinions/answers, however, I have now been a mentee long enough to learn that no one answer or opinion is more correct than the other. This allows me to evaluate my issue from multiple perspectives, which ultimately leads me to make a better decision. Mentors don’t have to be formal. Many times, I ask for advice from co-workers or even a complete stranger.

It’s hard work: Let’s be honest—starting a business takes a rather large emotional commitment, so you must want this at your core. I spent years talking daily with my family and other business owners, making sure I was making the right move. I knew once I jumped in, it was all or nothing. Vetrepreneurship requires buy-in from the entire family, as there is usually a substantial financial and personal time commitment.

Jason Van Camp, my friend, mentor, US Army Green Beret and the founder of Warrior Rising, says, “I ask the same three questions to vetrepreneurs that I do when a guy tells me he wants to go to Ranger School or Special Forces: The first is, why do you want to do this? Second, what are you going to do? Finally, what have you done in the past to ready yourself for this?”

Photo Credit: Haight Bey Marketing

Construction Companies Offer Strong Parallels for Veteran Employment

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A man looking out on a construction site

By Phil Panzarella, Chief Growth Officer, Easterseals DC MD VA

When veterans transition from the military to civilian life, organizations work to break down barriers, engage communities and connect veterans with what they need for meaningful employment, education and wellness. Community services are needed to ensure unmatched, accessible and indispensable resources and support for veterans to ensure they successfully transition to civilian life.

Veteran services provided by Easterseals’ national network of 68 affiliates focus on developing inclusive programs, including valuable training for veterans to leverage their skills to secure meaning employment.

“Easterseals has been delivering critical services to veterans and military families since the end of WWII,” says Angela Williams, National President and CEO of Easterseals, and herself a veteran. “We continue to be the ‘go to’ resource for them to help ensure their successful transition to civilian life.”

Historically, veteran employment programs are funded by the government, which in many cases lead to veterans falling through the cracks. Easterseals DC MD VA recognized this significant problem and established the Veteran Staffing Network (VSN), a meaningful innovation in the world of nonprofit service delivery. The VSN provides job search training and career coaching for veterans and military spouses.

While the VSN assists veterans’ search for employment in all industries, construction industry connections have yielded great success in matching skills to opportunities. There are established parallels that exist between the military and construction skill sets, and many candidates have qualities that construction companies would value such as flexibility, dependability and accountability.

Military service trains veterans to be problem solvers, team-orientated, safety-conscious and respectful of the same kinds of hierarchical structures that exist in the world of construction. Ultimately, there are great benefits to be realized by employing those who understand the overarching aspects of complex projects. The attributes offered by veterans are a result of military service that directly mirrors day-to-day construction operations.

According to a study performed by the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IMVF) of Syracuse University, veterans stay at their jobs 30 percent longer than their civilian counterparts. Countless careers in the construction industry are built around operations, and job loyalty creates a smoother operational base for long-term projects. Looking at the broader military universe, veterans are often qualified at the operations management level; they are accustomed to following complex plans, working collaboratively with teams, interacting with all aspects of diverse cultures and making things happen efficiently. Operational leadership is most often found in the enlisted corps as officers are trained for tactical leadership, senior management and operations execution. They lead the deployment of assets, oversee labor resources and develop strategic plans and relationships.

But in order for veterans to deliver their best work, companies must be willing to provide job training. Recognizing that veterans are highly experienced at learning quickly and deploying effectively, training programs are essential and valuable for 18-26-year-olds transitioning to civilian life.

Unbeknownst to most, the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification is a product of the construction industry. To meet the prerequisites required to take the PMP exam today, one must have a background in project management. Many veterans leave the military with those skill sets, and nonprofit veteran organizations are there to help them identify that experience and prepare them to leverage opportunities. A veteran interested in learning whether they qualify should engage with an organization like the Easterseals VSN.

While working to connect veterans to meaningful employment, the VSN simultaneously works with construction companies and their veteran employees to create veteran-friendly workplace cultures. In general, creating a robust military culture is an organizational lift. One key aspect of such a culture is the appointment of an executive champion, who can drive the “we proudly employ veterans” message to a variety of external and internal communities, both horizontally and vertically.

Best practices that demonstrate veteran-friendliness include establishing veteran-specific links and landing pages on corporate websites, pushing job postings to channels that veterans often visit, and ensuring presence at job fairs aimed specifically for veterans seeking employment. With all that said, it’s incumbent upon the company to provide its recruiting teams with training on how to speak a veteran’s language.

Engaging with an organization that can assist with employment and help to establish the right program is a great first step to creating a veteran-friendly culture. The construction industry is an ideal area of employment for veterans to cultivate their top-tier talents in order to find their passions. By providing workplace diversity, construction companies create attractive careers for veterans interested in taking their next step in life.

To learn more about the Veteran Staffing Network, click here.

From Battalions to Business Degrees

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Graduating group of veterans lined up to accept their business degrees in caps and gowns shown from behind

If you happen to be one of the millions of veterans leaving the military for civilian life, you face a daunting challenge. You may have flown a gunship; you may have driven a tank; you may have commanded a unit…but how do you convince a corporate recruiter that this counts as management experience?

Tom Tarantino, chief policy officer for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, admitted to US military newspaper, “The civilian business community does not understand military service skills and how to translate them. But they want to.”

Business education can help those with a military background segue into the business world, by equipping them with the means to see how the skills from their previous career can be utilized in a different context. Simply put, an MBA teaches you to speak the language of business.

After years, or even decades in leadership positions, today’s veterans have considerable professional experience – which is very applicable to the business world. A military background, therefore, means that they are often well-prepared for management roles. Despite this, hiring executives are often skeptical and wonder how frontline experience translates to the front office.

To help uncover the challenges and advantages of an MBA education for a veteran, we spoke with Major Grégori Bassaud, who at the time of writing, was pursuing an International MBA (IMBA) at EMLYON Business School in France.

Being a veteran can mean management experience

A married 43-year-old father of two young children, Bassaud is a career officer. He spent 21 years in the French marine corps. His service was primarily spent in airborne units where he rose up the ranks as a platoon leader, a company commander and finally as a staff officer (deputy chief ops in his battalion). He’s been deployed abroad several times, including one-year tours in French Guyana and two-year tours in Réunion Island and Martinique. A skydive specialist, Bassuad has 600 freefall jumps to his name and has been awarded the National Order of Service Merit.

During his time at EMLYON, Bassaud has been impressed with the school’s lecturers, particularly with “their in-depth knowledge in their respective fields; their ability to make it simple whatever the difficulties may be.” He notes that he considered alternative graduate degrees which were less expensive than an MBA, but in the end was convinced that the return on investment would make it worthwhile. “The advantages include relevant events like the career forum, with more than 300 companies, regular testimonies from alumni through the IMBA mentoring program, which gives you access to people holding great positions. Being at EMLYON is already being in business, already being in a professional environment where you learn everyday through the context alone.”

What advantages do you think people with a military background have when they pursue an MBA?

Seniority and maturity, which offer two advantages. First real management experience: the average age of my cohort is barely 30. Only a few of my classmates have real management experience and even that is very limited—they only managed four to five people; I had to manage more than 200.

Secondly, both of your feet are on the ground. When you have gained professional experience in more than 15 countries, worked with a huge and various range of stakeholders – belligerents, allies from various countries, NGOs, diplomats, politicians, religious representatives – you have fewer certainties than your classmates. Your approach to case studies is more careful and exhaustive, you pay more attention to the details and your judgement is often rather softer than your colleagues’ – which might not be what people expect from those who’ve served in the military.

Why do you think people with a military background should consider earning an MBA?

A military background can be useful in terms of soft skills, but you also have to take into consideration your weaknesses when it comes to hard skills such as accounting, finance, marketing, and corporate strategy. Although an MBA does not provide deep insight into all of these fields, except strategy, the very broad range of topics covered gives you the sufficient tools to successfully take up your targeted position.

You should not ignore the benefit of spending a year with people younger than you when pursuing a full-time MBA. Despite their limited background, they have already gained interesting experiences and they are up-to-date, always aware of the latest technology, the latest apps, the latest online tools, etc. A year with them is an accelerated course of training in the latest trends.

How do you think networking is different for someone with a military background?

MBAs are not as widely acknowledged by employers in France as they might be elsewhere, on top of which companies can be hesitant when dealing with candidates with atypical profiles. Even companies that are aware of MBAs expect a classic career path—for instance, an engineering degree followed by an initial professional experience, then an MBA. When coming from the army, networking is much more complicated. You have to rely more on the network of former military personnel who made the switch than on the school’s alumni network. Due to this additional difficulty, having the intensive support of your career services office is useful.

After adhering to a regimented military timetable, how do you handle the challenges of attending study and social functions that happen in the late evening?

As a matter of fact, veterans are used to extended shifts. Being accustomed to early morning hours makes your life easier. You are always on time. Many of your classmates are not, despite regular warnings by the faculty. The main challenge is combining the workload with your family life, which is definitely a huge challenge. Only 10% of my classmates have children. The pace of the course is definitely set for monks, or at least for people with total freedom.

Studies suggest that people who are physically fit are also more successful in their careers. If this is true – do you think it’s another advantage for a military person?

The first thing to point out is not all military veterans remain physically fit. However, in my case, some of my classmates were surprised that I was so physically fit for my age. I also had a comparable feedback from a headhunter, telling me that it presented a good image. So I agree that it is a kind of presentation skill.

Source: topmba.com

From the Corps to Corporate America

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Headshot of Laurie Sayles

U.S. Veterans Magazine asked Laurie Sayles, president and CEO of Civility Management Solutions (CivilityMS), and Jackson Dalton, president and founder of Black Box Safety, Inc., to share what it was like for them to transition out of the military and into the boardroom.

Laurie Sayles with Civility Management Solutions

Founded in 2012, CivilityMS provides professional consulting services as an SBA 8(a) certified, verified Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business (SDVOSB), Economically Disadvantaged Woman and Woman Owned Small Business (EDWOSB/WOSB). The firm’s status as a SDVOSB is verified with the Center for Veterans Enterprise (CVE) and the Veterans First Contracting Program.

USVM: Tell us about your transition from military life to one as a business owner.

Laurie Sayles (LS): I am from Chicago, IL, and have always sought out a means of having my own money or supplementing my income. I was a baby-sitter to single women in the low-income projects complex I resided as a young girl and I modeled professionally during high school, all before I joined the USMC. So, I often say that I have always been an entrepreneur.

But after getting out of the USMC, I returned to supplementing my income. I tried medical billing as a home-based business only to learn it was a scam. I also became a wellness coach and a bootcamp fitness instructor, to name a few.

My journey was long after transitioning because there was no outreach during the 90’s for military personnel leaving the USMC. For example, TAPS didn’t exist, and no one in the marketplace really cared that you were a veteran. Also, the Internet was not what it is today and there was no support to help translate your MOS. It was a more challenging time.

But I wanted to work in corporate America, so I took a job for $17,000 in 1989 as a receptionist. With that, the journey began to learn the difference of being a civilian in this space as an African-American woman with no degree. Within a short period of time, I began to take English, grammar and speaking courses to help me modify my means of communication.

I climbed the corporate ladder from receptionist to administrative assistant, to an executive assistant, to an operations director to a project manager over a 20-year period. Then in 2012, I became president and CEO of Civility Management Solutions.

USVM: How did your experience in the military influence your skillset as a business owner?

LS: My experience from the military has a huge influence in my skillset as a business owner. Again, being an African-American woman in business adds more challenges that many cannot identify with unless they belong to this ethnicity. But, thanks to being a woman that served in the Marine Corps, I am accustomed to operating in a man’s world and a world that is full of alpha males! The Marine Corps is not known to be, “The Few, The Proud, The Marines,” just as a slogan—it’s a culture and a lifestyle. As I often say, if you re-enlist in any branch of the military, it really speaks to you adapting and accepting that culture completely, otherwise you get out after first term. No one—and I do mean no one—that knows me personally walks away not knowing that I served in the Corps. It shows up in my demeanor and my strength as a business owner.

USVM: What advice would you give someone transitioning from the military into becoming a business owner?

LS: Make sure you start your homework early when you know your end date. There is so much to offer us when we get out of the military, and finally this country is beginning to recognize this fact. Our discipline, leadership, resilience and determination set us apart from anyone else who never served. So, with running anything … you’ve been trained while you wore the uniform; trained to operate in high integrity; and trained to leave no man behind. All three of these lead to you being a strong leader willing to take full responsibility for your actions. Help others be successful as you become successful.

Do take advantage of all the training being offered by the SBA in your State, affiliates of the SBA, and programs offered to veterans of the military. Get yourself affiliated with associations and advocacy groups that focus on the type of work you want to do as a business owner.

Lastly, network, network and network some more to find people that you can engage with. And get yourself some mentors! Each one will add different values and you can call on them as needed.

Jackson Dalton and Black Box Safety, Inc.

Headshot of Jackson DaltonBlack Box Safety, Inc. specializes in the prevention of serious injury in the workplace by supplying safety equipment for government agencies and organizations. Dalton is a Board-Certified Safety Professional (CSP) and holds a Master’s degree (MPH) in public health—only 17 percent of CSPs hold both (Board of Certified Safety Professionals, 2017) —as well as a Bachelor’s degree in business administration.

USVM: Tell us about your transition from military life to one as a business owner.

Jackson Dalton (JD): I was injured while serving in the Marine Corps. As a direct result of the injuries I sustained, I went through 3 leg surgeries and was not able to walk for a year. While serving, I was hurt at work—essentially an occupational injury. From this experience, I have made it my mission in life to ensure that others aren’t hurt at work, so that they can continue to do the things that they love to do.

As a direct result of my Marine Corps experience, I transitioned from the military into a career in occupational health and safety. I pursued a Bachelor’s degree and Master’s degree in Public Health, and spent over 10 years working as a Safety Engineer. Three years ago, it was my desire to help more people in a more meaningful way so I left my job at 3M and started my company, Black Box Safety, Inc., which is a supplier of safety products and safety training to government agencies and organizations that are looking for ways to reduce risk and help their employees stay safe and healthy.

USVM: How did your experience in the military influence your skillset as a business owner?

JD: My experience in the Marine Corps instilled two traits: Grit and bearing. Grit is the ability or decision to persevere in the face of extreme hardship and danger. Bearing is the ability to maintain a calm and confident demeanor in the face of adversity and uncertainty. I learned that the most contagious thing in the world is not infectious disease—it’s human emotion. As a leader, if I lose my bearing and communicate emotions of fear and stress, those emotions will be transferred to those I’m leading. I served as a squad leader in the Marine Corps and today I serve as President of Black Box Safety, Inc., where I am responsible for the health and welfare of 2 full-time employees and 4 part-time employees.

USVM: What advice would you give someone transitioning from the military into becoming a business owner?

JD: This is the advice that I would give to someone transitioning from the military to entrepreneurship

  1. Take advantage of every educational opportunity available including but not limited to: Post-secondary education funded through the Post-9/11 GI Bill and Dept. of VA Vocational Rehabilitation Ch.31,; free business start-up courses offered through the Small Business Administration (SBA) and the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) [SBA offers free business courses online at SBA.gov]; apply for a free SCORE mentor; podcasts featuring business start-up advice; and finally an often-overlooked resource that proved to be of great value and benefit to me, Shark Tank and YouTube.
  2. Join an incubator that is composed at least partially of active-duty and veteran business owners. I benefited greatly from the camaraderie I found by applying to a veteran incubator called Tactical Launch. I went through this incubator 2 years ago, and I am still close friends with many of the members of the cohort and many of us continue to be successful in business. The camaraderie is necessary when starting a business, especially if you are the sole founder. It’s actually the number one thing that servicemen and women miss the most when transitioning out of the military.
  3. If you are able to do so, start your business now. Many business startups require very little in the way of capital and expense. Most can be started out of your home with a phone, a laptop and a lot of determination. The biggest mistake I see in other founders is the desire to have everything ready prior to launch. A good plan executed today is better than a perfect plan executed tomorrow.

Why Veterans Make the Best Candidates for the Workforce

LinkedIn
A male body wearing a suit that is half black and half camoflauge

Recently, LinkedIn released its “Veteran Opportunity Report,” a list of data that serves to better understand the reality of transitioning veterans into the workforce. The data shows that Veterans are more likely to have a college education, more work experience, and a lower turnaround rate than those who have never served in the military.

These are all ideal qualities for job hiring and yet military veterans are still having a difficult time securing jobs due to the myths about hiring veterans. In fact, the same LinkedIn report stated the unemployment rate of veterans has increased by a whopping 34 percent. However, educating yourself and being aware of the myths are some of the first steps to understanding why military veterans can be some of the best employees for a company, regardless of what the company specializes in.

Myth #1: Veterans don’t have proper work experience

Yes, the culture on the battlefield is different from the culture at home, but military personnel are trained in several areas that result in trusted and efficient employees. In the military, the consequences of mistakes and the criticalness of executing orders are much higher than that of the workplace. Veterans are trained on how to properly ensure that their missions are carried out carefully and efficiently, which transfer over to completing workplace tasks and duties. Many also believe most veterans do not have the mental health to keep a job, but this, as the LinkedIn data show, is incorrect, as they stay at their jobs longer than those who have not served.

Myth #2: Veterans don’t have the capacity to be leaders

This need for attentive, efficient workers also transfers over for a need of management. Managers undergo a significant amount of stress, while trying to manage a group of employees. Veterans on the battlefield also undergo the stress of managing those they are in charge of, but at the risk of bigger stakes and stresses. Veterans are already used to a much higher level of stress when it comes to managing others, which gives them even more of an advantage when they manage employees with a lower level of stress. In fact, veterans are 70 percent more likely to take leadership roles than those who have not served.

Myth #3: Veterans Have a High Turnover Rate

In fact, the opposite is true. LinkedIn’s Report states veterans are actually more likely to stay with their companies for 8.3 percent longer than an employee who has not seen military culture. They are also 39 percent more likely to be promoted in filling larger roles than their counterparts.

It can be hard to know if an individual can take on a needed position, especially when rumors and misconceptions fly around on an entire culture. But taking a look at the data and experiences of veterans can help potential employers to understand how efficient their businesses can be if they hire the ones who know how to lead and succeed.

A Military Wife’s Guide to Suicide Prevention

LinkedIn
Depressed soldier leaning against the window covering his face with his arm

Aleha Landry is one of the many people who has a military spouse suffering from a form of mental illness from military experience.

Through her personal experiences tending to her husband’s mental health conditions and her knowledge of the rising suicide rate among military personnel, Landry does everything in her power to help those suffering from these conditions.

Through her husband’s struggle with depression and suicidal thoughts, Landry has had a look at the various military-implemented mental health programs that help military personnel in these specific instances. Though in place for good reason, Landry has expressed her husband’s distaste for the programs, as they claim to be a solution for an issue that is as complicated and complex as mental health. To bring awareness to what veterans are actually feeling in times of mental health issues, Landry writes letters to Air Force leaders and members of Congress.

Though she is yet to receive a response to her letters, Landry does offer three helpful tips that she believes should be implemented into the mental health programs for military personnel.

  • Therapists working through these programs should either be stationed to stay in one place or at least have a five-year commitment to where they are currently located. Many of the therapists that Landry’s husband has seen have relocated in a short span of time, forcing him to retell his story and rebuild trust over and over again. Lancey believes that having one therapist who is guaranteed to stick around would allow for trust, understanding and healing to be better implemented.
  • Guarantee off-base counseling. This would allow for those seeking therapy to have a wider range of choice in finding the right counselor, rather than feeling the pressure to have to talk with a specific person.
  • Reduce the redundancy in progress questionnaires. Many questionnaires given to track the mental progress of military personnel are redundant and frustrating, according to Landry, who believes asking the questions once and having them answered to a therapist rather than on a sheet of paper would decrease frustration and give patients the sense of being cared for.

One Pedal at a Time

LinkedIn
Dan Hurd standing behind his bike which has several personal belongings tied to it.

Dan Hurd’s infectious smile and true contentment rests gently with him wherever he goes. But this hasn’t always been the case. There have been many days where the voices of fear, shame, depression, and anxiety have made it hard to smile and trust others.

The years of sexual abuse, PTSD from time served in the military, battling years of painful addictions, and struggling to ever have any real peace eventually lead to him believing this life just wasn’t worth living anymore.

After multiple failed suicide attempts, Hurd was invited to go on a weekend ride with friends that would inevitably change the course of his life forever. Here’s his personal account:

In 2017, I was in a dark place in life. I had tried to commit suicide for the third time and felt like my life was this dark void. After I was released from the hospital, I was in the stage of telling everyone I was better, but deep down, I still had no idea how to change my life or what direction to go in.

My best friend had tried for years to get me to go bicycling with him with no success. He was an avid rider and I never really had the motivation to join him. I rode motorcycles, and in my mind, it would be a downgrade.

This time though, for several reasons, I ended up taking him up on his offer. With nothing to lose, I decided to ride with him and two mutual friends. We rode 20 miles. It felt good in the moment but I still felt the same after. A few days later we rode again. This time 30 miles. Again, in the moment riding felt good, but this feeling of being in a void lingered. What changed everything was the third ride I took with him the following weekend. We took a 166-mile trip.

I remember in the first half falling asleep while riding and barely made it to our destination. What helped me get through was the encouragement of my friend, who told me, “stop worrying about what we’ve done and don’t worry about what we got left; it’s left, right, left, one pedal at a time.” After that trip everything changed.

I realized what got me through it wasn’t worrying about the past or the future but only living in the moment. Taking it “one pedal at a time” became my mantra and my turning point. Hearing that was like someone throwing a glow stick in the void. My void wasn’t as deep as I thought.

I fell in love with bicycling and started planning longer trips. I became addicted, but it was a better addiction then my past choices of alcohol and drugs.

After only a few months of riding, I knew that I needed to do something EPIC.

Cycling proved to be so transformational for Hurd that he decided to sell everything he had, get a bike and begin a journey around the country, visiting fellow veterans he had served with in the Navy. He traveled across 48 states in the continental United States. As the trip went along, it was obvious that it was meant to be more than just a trip to visit friends. The journey totaled 25,000 miles in about three years to raise awareness for suicide prevention. “Broken down on a daily basis that’s 22 miles a day, and that’s my dedication to service members that lose their battle every day to suicide,” Hurd said.

His deep passion to share his gift of cycling with others, along with his desire to raise awareness about suicide prevention, was how the One Pedal At A Time Movement was created.

Now after 20+ states and thousands of miles later, you’re invited to be a part of this journey and learn to take life, one petal at a time. Join the movement! #OPAATMOVEMENT

To learn more, visit: ridewithdanusa.com or opaatmovement.com

Providing Business, DVBE. Employment & Educational Opportunities For Veterans

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