Millennial Veterans: Better, Faster, Stronger


Of the 13 enlisted Marines I served directly alongside seven years ago at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina, all of us are either working in the private sector or have remained in the service. One of us made it to Yale and wrote a book. One is a human rights lawyer working international justice cases in Kenya. Several of us are business owners. Most of us are college grads. A few own homes.

With our military service behind us, we’ve closed ranks and started doing amazing things. While this may sound exceptional to some, we are not unique.

Yet we, the overwhelmingly successful majority of America’s millennial veterans, are an untold story.

See, home ownership doesn’t make headlines. Homelessness does. Business ownership doesn’t fly off the presses. Unemployment does. Self-efficacy isn’t nearly as sexy as the plaintive cries of the handful of malingering scumbags demanding every lush benefit in the book. The hundreds of thousands of veterans living quiet family lives don’t have nearly the twisted glamour of the few who choose violence each year.

The bulk of millennial veterans are neither heroes nor victims. We’re simply men and women who, in the words of American poet Robert Service, “heard the challenge, learned the lesson, paid the cost.” We now apply a greater depth of self-knowledge, work ethic and situational awareness to everything we do, and as a result, we do pretty freaking well. Let me unpack our awesomeness.

Millennial veterans are overwhelmingly civic minded.

Nearly all of us say we intend to continue to serve once we leave the military. Look no further than veteran disaster relief organization Team Rubicon to see this intention in action. During the past few years, this relatively new organization has saved American communities millions of dollars in disaster recovery costs. That’s the good news. The better news is that we’re just getting started.

Most of us are employed.

The unemployment rate for veterans is much better than that of the civilian workforce. We’re supremely hirable, loyal and hardworking. We get team dynamics. We know how to show up on time, and our judgment is tends to be finely honed. Which leads me to my next point…

We also make great business owners.

Veterans are 42 times more likely to become business owners as they are to become homeless. Once we decide to launch a business, we’re also twice as likely as our civilian counterparts to succeed. We understand how to plan, how to lead and how to accomplish the mission. Looking for your next investment? Seek out a vetrepreneur.

We’re networking machines.

Some of my best friends and most valued mentors are veterans. Encouragement, support, advice, and high morale flow like class six rapids through the canyon of veteran goodwill. We’ve organized ourselves into formal associations and powerful informal referral and mentoring networks. We’re constantly on the lookout for new business opportunities for each other. #awesome

If we have invisible wounds, we seek help.

More veterans than ever before are reporting post-traumatic stress. This is a good thing. Combat is stressful. Rape is stressful. The loss of your buddies is stressful. Once we’re aware that we can’t muscle through trauma alone, we start to get help through Veterans Affairs, private psychologists, religious counselors, and social communities.

But we’re not satisfied with “treatment.” We want more. When retired Marine Gen. James Mattis recently suggested that trauma could be used as a starting point for growth to a stronger, healthier place, the response was overwhelmingly positive. Themes of meaning, continued purpose, and hope resonate strongly with millennial veterans.

Hello, America. We’ve been here all along.

Lydia Davey is an entrepreneur and U.S. Marine Veteran. She is the founder of Moriah Creatives Public Relations.


Photograph by Sgt. Timothy Lenzo
Ryan Kules

Editor's note: A combat wounded veteran, Ryan served in the U.S. Army as an armor officer assigned to 1st Battalion, 13th Armor Regiment. While deployed to Iraq in 2005, his vehicle was hit with an improvised explosive device buried in the road. He works as the Wounded Warrior Project's national Combat Stress Recovery Program director.

On Nov. 29, 2005, my life changed forever. I was a 24-year-old U.S. Army armor captain deployed to Taji, Iraq, when my vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device. On that day, I lost two of my soldiers, Sgts. Jerry Mills and Donald Hasse, and I lost my right arm and left leg.

Read More Show Less
(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

CAMP PENDLETON — Susan and Michael McDowell attended a memorial in June for their son, 1st Lt. Conor McDowell. Kathleen Isabel Bourque, the love of Conor's life, joined them. None of them had anticipated what they would be going through.

Conor, the McDowells' only child, was killed during a vehicle rollover accident in the Las Pulgas area of Camp Pendleton during routine Marine training on May 9. He was 24.

Just weeks before that emotional ceremony, Alexandrina Braica, her husband and five children attended a similar memorial at the same military base, this to honor Staff Sgt. Joshua Braica, a member of the 1st Marine Raider Battalion who also was killed in a rollover accident, April 13, at age 29.

Braica, of Sacramento, was married and had a 4 1/2-month-old son.

"To see the love they had for Josh and to see the respect and appreciation was very emotional," Alexandrina Braica said of the battalion. "They spoke very highly of him and what a great leader he was. One of his commanders said, 'He was already the man he was because of the way he was raised.' As parents, we were given some credit."

While the tributes helped the McDowells and Braicas process their grief, the families remain unclear about what caused the training fatalities. They expected their sons eventually would deploy and put their lives at risk, but they didn't expect either would die while training on base.

"We're all still in denial, 'Did this really happen? Is he really gone?' Braica said. "When I got the phone call, Josh was not on my mind. That's why we were at peace. He was always in training and I never felt that it would happen at Camp Pendleton."

Read More Show Less
(Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)

SEOUL (Reuters) - The United States looks set to break a promise not to hold military exercises with South Korea, putting talks aimed at getting North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons at risk, the North Korean Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday.

The United States' pattern of "unilaterally reneging on its commitments" is leading Pyongyang to reconsider its own commitments to discontinue tests of nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), the ministry said in a pair of statements released through state news agency KCNA.

Read More Show Less
(Courtesy of Roman Sabal)

A deported Marine Corps veteran who has been unable to come back to the U.S. for more than a decade was denied entry to the country Monday morning when he asked to be let in for a scheduled citizenship interview.

Roman Sabal, 58, originally from Belize, came to the San Ysidro Port of Entry around 7:30 on Monday morning with an attorney to ask for "parole" to attend his naturalization interview scheduled for a little before noon in downtown San Diego. Border officials have the authority to temporarily allow people into the country on parole for "humanitarian or significant public benefit" reasons.

Read More Show Less
Jeff Schogol

Navy Secretary Richard Spencer took the reins at the Pentagon on Monday, becoming the third acting defense secretary since January.

Spencer is expected to temporarily lead the Pentagon while the Senate considers Army Secretary Mark Esper's nomination to succeed James Mattis as defense secretary. The Senate officially received Esper's nomination on Monday.

Read More Show Less