I recently sent out my biannual “thank you” to all my friends and business colleagues who have valiantly served their country at one point or another. I’d like to extend that thanks to all those Vets who may visit our website or follow this blog. I hope you all enjoyed Veterans Day and reflected proudly with your families on the sacrifices you’ve made for our country.
They say Pennsylvania is Philly and Pittsburgh with Alabama in between. Well, if that’s the case, I lived in Alabama. I attended Boyertown High School where about 50% of the graduating class went to college and the rest either joined the Service or found meaningful work in the community. While I was pledging a fraternity at Swarthmore College, many of my friends were in Desert Storm protecting my right to do so. Many of them continued that service in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. I sincerely appreciate all they have sacrificed.
One of my friends from Boyertown is Mike Brooks (above right) who has risen to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. Recently, after a difficult tour of duty in some of the most violent parts of Afghanistan (within the Helmand Province) where he experienced many casualties, Mike returned home. He decided to participate in a couple of racing events to raise awareness for MARSOC (Marine Special Operations Command) Foundation. On April 7th of this year, Mike completed a bike race called the Belgian Waffle Ride. It was designed in the spirit of the infamous Belgian spring races and covered 130 miles, 10,000 feet of climbing, miles of dirt trails and water crossings. Just one week later, Mike participated in the Leadman Triathlon in Tempe, Arizona. Mike made a commitment to compete in this Triathlon and support the MARSOC Foundation. The race was a 125-kilometer course consisting of a 2.5-kilometer swim, 111.5-kilometer bike course and 11-kilometer run. Seen here is a special bike made for a wounded warrior who refused to say “I can’t”. I am proud to call Mike a friend and encourage everyone to learn more about MARSOC Foundation at their website: www.marsocfoundation.org
Equally as uplifting were programs and initiatives I recently became aware of at a National Conference for NAGGL (National Association of Government Guaranteed Lenders). This is an annual conference where small business lenders from all over the country convene with key personnel from the United States Small Business Administration. One of the prevailing themes and important initiatives was helping returning Veterans find work including financing their potential endeavors in starting or buying a small business. As a country, we didn’t do too well after the Vietnam conflict. Our generation can do a better job helping these folks assimilate back into society and the economy. Here is a synopsis of what is happening:
• SBA has set up training programs throughout its network of local offices.
• Many Banks and Lenders have taken a pledge to the SBA to increase lending to Vets.
• SBA has entered a joint collaboration with Syracuse University to increase training to Veterans and their families in entrepreneurship. The collaboration is called “Operation Boots to Business” and I encourage you to visit their website at www.boots2business.org.
There is a lot going on to support our returning heroes and we need to get the word out. If you know military personnel who are in need of training, financing or assistance, please let me know. While our lending geography is restricted, I have contacts nationwide that share the same mission/philosophy as I do and that is “take a little more risk for those that risked it all”.
I want to personally thank you again for your service and please spread the word regarding all these great programs and charitable organizations.