These 5 Veterans Exemplify Military Transition Success
January 15, 2020 by Paige Brown
For some of the 200,000 service members who separate or retire from the military each year, it’s no secret that transitioning to civilian life can be difficult.
While the Department of Defense is currently revamping its Transition Assistance Program and now helping service members prepare up to a year prior to leaving the military, some veterans have created their own opportunities and found considerable success.
Curtez Riggs, who served in the Army for 21 years and who recently retired, envisioned his own transition and next steps and while still on active duty, founded the Military Influencer Conference. The MIC lays claim to being the largest single gathering of entrepreneurs, leaders and creatives in the military space. Now in its fourth year, the MIC is “a powerful community of military iInfluencers who understand the importance of mentorship, storytelling, and collaboration.”
The MIC has been held in Texas, Florida and DC and has featured key veterans, leaders and supportive companies like NASCAR driver and Navy veteran, Jesse Iwuji, Army veteran and CEO of Street Shares Mark Rockefeller, Amy Bushatz of Military.com and companies like USAA, We Are The Mighty, Comcast NBCUniversal and Amazon. This year’s MIC will be held in San Antonio in September and is open to active duty, veterans and to the public.
After serving in the Middle East, Marine veteran Noah Currier was paralyzed in an auto accident stateside after returning home from deployment. The next few years proved to be very challenging, but Noah would later connect with the Paralyzed Veterans of America, a 75 year old national Congressionally chartered nonprofit, where he found a renewed sense of self and capability through competitive adaptive sports.
Reinvigorated, Currier founded Oscar Mike, an apparel company that makes military-themed shirts and hoodies, named after the military term for being “on the move,” In addition to serving as the President of Oscar Mike, Noah founded the Oscar Mike Foundation, a non-profit that focuses on connecting injured service members and veterans with adaptive sports.
Although numbers vary, there are over 500,00 people considered homeless in the US, of which, an estimated 40,000 are veterans. Being homeless, was something retired Army Major Jas Boothe never thought would happen but came to know firsthand.
After leaving the military and battling and beating cancer, Boothe found herself to be a single mother with no place to live. Told there were no existing transition programs for women veterans with children, Boothe set out to address this need by founding Final Salute, a non-profit that aims to provide for homeless women veterans and their children.
Based on what Boothe calls her commitment to “never leave a fallen comrade,” Final Salute also helps women establish plans toward independence and gaining a foothold in civilian life.
To date, she and Final Salute have provided over 15,000 transitional housing days to women in need, over 5,000 women have received direct financial assistance, and over 60 women and their children have been placed in supportive housing through Final Salute’s H.O.M.E program.
Daniel Alarik was an Army drill sergeant for four years, but is now the CEO of Grunt Style, a $100 million military pride apparel brand that he founded so people “don’t look lame while showing off your pride in the Army, military and in country.”
Grunt Style is comprised of a balanced mixture of former service members and non-vets. Alarik points out this was intentional, noting that each group has things to teach and learn from the other. Something forged in Alarik from his military service – never quitting – has allowed him to grow his business, even when it appeared like it was doomed to fail. He believes every problem in a business can be fixed. Whether it’s poor product fit, bad marketing or a need for financing – these problems can be solved, but not by quitting.
Army veteran, and West Point graduate Kimberly Jung took a slightly different route to giving back. After serving in Afghanistan, she devised a way to support the people there. She co-founded Rumi Spice, which works with Afghan farmers to import quality saffron into the U.S.
Driven by what she embraces, “Succeeding in ambiguous situations, finding solutions to challenging problems through teamwork and innovation, and walking into the unknown and making it work,” Jung also serves on the National Board of Directors for Bunker Labs, a non-profit that helps veteran and military spouse entrepreneurs develop and grow successful businesses.
With chapters in over 30 cities nationwide, Bunker Labs offers educational programming, mentors and local networks to help veterans start and grow businesses. An extension of Bunker Labs, Launch Lab Online, is an online platform that provides vets anywhere in the world access to entrepreneurship education.
Ever the student, while running Rumi Spice, and often revisiting Afghanistan, Kimberly completed her MBA at Harvard Business School and is now a full time graduate student at M.I.T.
All five of these veterans not only illustrate that service members can smoothly transition and succeed in civilian life, but how important valuable resources and networking are in ultimately reaching success.
Few people accomplish anything alone, and networks like Heroes Linked were designed with veterans and military spouses in mind – and exist to help them not only transition to life after service, but to thrive in it.