“The military is much more entrepreneurial than people think” – How 2 veterans help other former military personnel transition into civilian life


Career transitions are difficult for everyone, but moving from the military to civilian life can be particularly challenging.

Soldiers returning from the Vietnam War were too often treated as damaged goods by employers, according to a study by Alair MacLean, a sociology professor at Washington State University in Iraq and Afghanistan – especially in the second half of life.

I grew up in a Navy family (and then my father worked in shipping). We moved every two or three years and lived from Fort Hamilton, Brooklyn, NY, to Guam. Perhaps that is why I was so pleased with the efforts of two military veterans who worked with their colleagues to help them transition to meaningful civilian lives.

Michael Zacchea, 53, director of the University of Connecticut’s Entrepreneur Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities, and Larry Steward, 78, founder of ReinventU and the Officers Transition Alliance – are doing important work and I want you to hear from them how and why they support veterinarians; You can see their interviews below.

Veterans generally bring many skills to their prospective employers, including the ability to work in multigenerational teams. Many veterinarians are cosmopolitan as they have been exposed to different cultures and parts of the world during their business trips. However, some veterans with combat experience cannot handle loud noises; others may find it difficult to be surrounded by too many people in a crowded office.

For veterinarians, finding a job in the U.S. workforce means starting with the basics of career transition, such as explaining how their skills translate into job attributes, learning how to network, and figuring out what type of employment might fulfill.

Joyce Cohen, co-founder of the My future purpose Affiliate organization and creator of Boots to Backyards, a mentoring program that helps veterans find new goals, asks vets, “What skills have you learned that you might use in the future?” She adds, “It’s like one Puzzle.”

Let me now introduce you to Michael Zacchea and Larry Steward:

Michael Zacchea: Director of the Entrepreneur Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities

U.S. Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel Michael Zacchea was promoted to Second Lieutenant in 1990. His military career included missions in Somalia and Haiti. Sent to Iraq in 2004 to build and command the first U.S. military-trained Iraqi army battalion, he was wounded by a rocket-propelled grenade during the Second Battle of Fallujah.

See also: “I retired from a military accident and am currently receiving a pension of $ 2,000 a month for the rest of my life. What can I do to save more? ‘

He is now medically retired and has been awarded two Bronze Stars and Purple Heart and the Iraqi Order of the Lion of Babylon for his services.

Zacchea’s first post-military job was on Wall Street, where he worked on a trade desk at an energy company. He hated it, mostly because soldiers he knew were still being wounded and killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. So Zacchea began his part-time MBA from the University of Connecticut and graduated in four years.

A professor at the school encouraged him to research experienced entrepreneurship programs. He learned that in Connecticut, despite documented success stories, there weren’t any anywhere else. In 2010, Zacchea therefore launched a local program aimed at disabled veterans: the Entrepreneur Bootcamp for Veterans With Disabilities, which primarily supports veterinarians and family members in starting businesses.

“At first glance, you start a business, but it’s really about creating a community of veterans,” he says. “We believe that entrepreneurship is a really important force in reintegration into civil society.”

The first bootcamp cohort had 13 graduates. The latest course is online because of the pandemic; it has 21 veterans and one caregiver.

Most of Zacchea’s courses actually include tutors. A disabled veteran’s spouse often has to quit their job to be a carer, but starting a home business allows them to earn an income while looking after the veterinarian.

Zacchea’s graduates have started nearly 190 companies, although only about 150 are still in operation. Most of the shops were closed for health reasons.

About a quarter of home-based businesses are in the architecture, construction, and engineering sectors; another quarter are in IT; another quarter is supply chain management or brokerage and the rest is an eclectic mix ranging from dog shops to concierge services.

Why Entrepreneurship?

Many veterinarians are familiar with advanced technology; They have been trained to act independently on missions, and military leaders learn a variety of skills, from supply chain management to project planning.

“The military is a lot more entrepreneurial than you think,” says Zacchea. “Especially the small unit leaders in the military who are essentially small businesses.”

Another reason: Building a business is inherently an optimistic act. You are creating something that didn’t exist. Zacchea says entrepreneurship is “not just economic integration to give veterans a new identity, but also a service program to build something”.

You might like: I am 40 and a single military father of 2 years; I have rental income, $ 100,000 in retirement savings, and expect to retire at least $ 3,000 per month – what am I missing?

Larry Steward: Founder of ReinventU

Steward joined the Navy in 1962 after graduating from Scottsdale, Arizona, high school. At that time, young men either entered the military or waited to be drafted.

Steward became a medic, attended naval medical school, and spent time in Okinawa, Japan. When the Vietnam War came to a head, he finally found himself in Da Nang.

Steward was involved in battalion-size surgery when a Marine buttoned him and said his group needed medical attention. He managed to get to the Marines under fire, but was then shot in the back.

“The immediate feeling was like being hit by a hot ax,” he recalls. “The other thing is, I got my ticket home.”

Steward has received several medals for his services, including a Silver Star.

He then went to college and worked in the advertising industry. Steward enjoyed it but felt that his career didn’t make much sense. He wanted to find a way to help others with her Career, so he opened a career counseling service. “It never hit the ground,” he said.

Next, Steward worked for a corporate outplacement firm, became a contractor in Connecticut and New York, and eventually decided to start his own career consulting firm that focused on working with veterans who want to serve the common good.

That’s what he’s been doing since 2017, through ReinventU, from his home in Aiken, SC, and through the national Encore Network organization.

“I have a career full of transitions,” says Steward. “That’s why I call myself a transition expert.”

The military officers he consults usually have a long launch pad for their transition to civilian life, maybe a year or two. Its job is to help them recognize their abilities and find an organization with a culture that reflects their values.

The four officers in his Officers Transition Alliance Group is late 40s; one turns 51 when he leaves the military.

Steward notes that a lot of preparing for a transition involves developing an entrepreneurial mindset, whether or not the goal is to start a business.

“The process of getting a job or starting a business is similar,” says Steward. “The process you are learning is preparing for future transitions.”

Steward himself has no intention of retiring. “Right now this is the most exciting phase of my entire career, my entire life cycle,” he says.

After speaking with Steward and Zacchea, I believe more than ever that meaningful veterans and a paycheck are essential to the health of the U.S. economy.

Next read: “A job is not just a job”: Why some unemployed people do not jump on job offers

It is important to remember what we as a society owe to military retirees. And when we think of the U.S. economy, it’s crucial for us to understand how much better we are when our vets successfully transition into civilian life.

Chris Farrell is a Senior Economics Contributor for American Public Media’s Marketplace. An award-winning journalist, he’s a writer
of Purpose and Paycheck: Finding Purpose, Money, and Happiness in the Second Half of Life and Retirement: How Baby Boomers Are Changing the Way We Think about Work, Community, and the Good Life.

This article is used with permission from. reprinted NextAvenue.org, © 2021 Twin Cities Public Television, Inc. All rights reserved.

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