Never Forget Where You Came From

Editor's note:

Michael has co-authored three books; Mission Critical: Unlocking the Value of Veterans in the Workforce, and two editions of a military transition guidebook titled Business Networking for Veterans. While attending business school, he founded the FourBlock Foundation to help bridge the gap between returning service members and the business community.

Michael Abrams
April 13, 2020

I was shocked. A mentor email introduced me to Marshall Carter, who at the time was the Chairman of the New York Stock Exchange. And within minutes, Marshall Carter called me. We spent nearly thirty minutes on the phone trading war stories and discussing veteran employment. Since then over the course of many years, whenever I emailed or called Mr. Carter, he has always made time for me. He has even made time to come speak to the student-veterans in the FourBlock Career Readiness Program nearly every semester as well.

Marshall Carter is a Vietnam veteran, Navy Cross recipient, was the CEO of State Street Bank, and then Chairman of the legendary New York Stock Exchange. And regardless of what he is doing, he always finds time to speak to transitioning veterans. 

And he is not the only executive who has been so generous with his or her time. Other very senior executives, with more on their plates than we can truly understand, have always gone out of their way to make time for me; to answer emails, return calls, make introductions and act as a sounding board.

The reason is simple; these military veterans and senior executives have never forgotten where they came from.

They remember the challenges they faced returning home from war and trying to start a new life. They remember that they did not make their transition on their own; they needed the support and assistance of family, friends and veterans in their community. They understand that they would not be where they are today without the help of other veterans that came before them.

They remember and are now paying it forward.

It saddens me to see recently transitioned veterans in the corporate world, who months before were desperately seeking advice and connections to job opportunities, not take the time to provide some help to other veterans. They received support and assistance from veterans when they needed it, and now that they successfully started new careers, they cannot take a few minutes to pay it forward?

I completely understand that we cannot help everyone. Employees in today’s workforce have very full plates. Especially veterans who are newly hired – they are trying very hard to fit in and establish themselves. Oftentimes veterans are also juggling a family and school as well. Time is a very precious commodity.

But if the Chairman of the New York Stock Exchange is able to make time for returning veterans; if he is able to return calls and emails within twenty-four hours; if he is able to meet for lunch or coffee; if he is able to address a classroom full of veterans about the challenges that he faced transitioning; then I would think that we all can find some time as well.

We can never forget where we came from. We must always remember that we were once that transitioning veteran desperately seeking advice and connections. And we must always make the time to support our brothers and sisters returning home regardless of how busy we are. If Marshall Carter can do it, so can we. 

Check out the FourBlock Podcast, where we discuss the military-civilian divide, career transitions, and leadership:

Listen on: Spotify  Libsyn


Find Your Calling: Career transition Principles for Returning Veterans

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Take our free online career transition course: Career Transition Principles for Returning Veterans. This course provides military veterans with a useful roadmap to transition more smoothly from military service to a new and meaningful civilian career.

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