Best Jobs For Veterans 2018

Best Jobs for Veterans

Eight of the best civilian jobs for transitioning veterans have been identified by one of the top job search sites, CareerCast. These include registered nurse, financial advisor, info security analyst and operations research assistant, among others.

“There are many benefits to hiring veterans,” says Kyle Kensing, online content editor, CareerCast. “The discipline, teamwork and leadership qualities emphasized in the military directly translate to the civilian workforce. Skills gained during military service are in high demand.”

Public and private sector efforts to recruit and employ veterans have paid major dividends in lowering the unemployment rate for veterans. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in 2016 that of the approximately 21.2 million men and women with military experience, an unemployment rate that hovered near 10 percent just seven years ago has been cut almost in half.

The Veterans Opportunity to Work Act was designed for the Department of Labor to match veterans with career paths based on their responsibilities while in service. Private-sector companies are also launching their own hiring initiatives to match veteran job seekers with open positions.

Growing emphasis on technological skills in the military translate well to a growing market for IT professionals. Information Security is an area of growing importance in both military and government matters. Veterans who work specifically in IT security during their service can effectively translate their skills into government positions of the same nature.

Another area of emphasis in military service is healthcare. Nursing positions are also in demand for enlisted personnel, and many states allow veterans with experience as nurses in the military to apply that experience to civilian certification.

For those veterans looking to use their civilian careers to make a positive impact for others in the military, careers in management and finance offer great opportunities. Businesses tailoring their outreach to the veteran community are increasingly turning to veterans for management consultant and operations research analyst positions.
Financial advisor is the No. 1 most in-demand field in the CareerCast Veteran Network job database. Veterans with a background in mathematics and finance can work directly with military families to help them protect their investments and savings.

The improved employment landscape for veterans isn’t merely a boon to one section of the workforce. Veterans bring skills that greatly benefit employers, making them prime candidates in a variety of fields.

Here are eight of the best jobs for veterans:

Profession Annual Median Salary* Growth Outlook*
Financial advisor $89,160 30%
Information security analyst $90,120 18%
Management consultant $81,320 14%
Nurse practitioner $104,740 31%
Operations research analyst $78,630 30%
Registered nurse $67,490 16%
Sales manager $113,860 5%
Software engineer $100,690 17%

The best jobs for veterans were selected from the 200 professions covered in the Jobs Rated report as a good match based on their responsibilities and skills gained while in service.

Wages and projected growth outlooks through 2024 are from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
To read the full report, visit

4 Financial Tips for Transitioning Veterans and Spouses

Financial Tips

By Alecia D. Blair

Whether you have spent four or 24 years following your service member around the country and world, don’t forget that your spouse’s separation or retirement from the military is your military transition, too.

During a military transition, you will tackle challenges pertaining to your family’s financial readiness (spending plan and emergency savings), your career, and your own retirement savings. But don’t sweat it. As a military spouse and planner extraordinaire, you’ve been coming up with plans A, B, C, and D for years. You will take on this challenge just as you have any other in the military—with resilience and grace. You’ve got this, and we are here to help.

Check out four tips to help you pre-plan for your transition away from military life.

1 Revisit the family spending plan.

Does your family already have a spending plan (budget)? If so, that’s great. It’s time to adapt it. If you don’t have a spending plan, having a realistic, conservative one is essential to a smooth military transition.

Check out the Transition toolkit on for tips to compare your service member’s military to civilian compensation and benefits. If you need to start from scratch, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Check out SaveandInvest’s and USAA Education Foundation’s information on spending plans/worksheets.

When modifying your spending plan for a military transition, you will be losing tax breaks when you transition out of military life, so take this into account. If you need a second set of eyes on your spending plan (and financials in general), visit your installation’s financial readiness/education office and speak to a personal financial counselor for free.

Remember, communication is key. Make sure you and your service member are on the same page about the family financials.

2  Do you still need an emergency fund? Yes! Now more than ever.

Having a healthy emergency fund is always in style, especially if your family is moving beyond the military.

The benefits your service member receives (housing, health care, taxes, etc.) will change a lot in the civilian world, so having at least three to six months of emergency savings will help your family better handle financial surprises instead of taking on debt. As FINRA Investor Education Foundation plainly puts it, “Expect to pay more money out of pocket than you’re used to.”

3  Now’s your time. What do you want to do?

Chances are you’ve followed your service member around from duty station to duty station for a while. As a result of his or her service, your professional and/or education options have been limited. So now may be the time to ask yourself, “What do I want to do?”

Is now the right time to return to school? In many cases, a service member can transfer his or her GI Bill to a spouse or dependents, so look into this option. Proceed with caution before taking on debt to return to school. Plot your course carefully, and look for creative ways to reduce education expenses whenever possible.

Is a career or job change in your future? If so, dust off that résumé and polish it up. Many military installations offer free resume and job preparation services, so visit a location close to you.

4  Are you contributing toward your own retirement? You should be.

If you aren’t already contributing to your own retirement account, now is a great time to do this for many reasons:

  • Employment changes may allow you to save more toward retirement.
  • There are often tax advantages to saving toward retirement.
  • Your retirement savings account will help supplement your service member’s retirement, which means a higher standard of living in your golden years.
  • Plus, seeing your own retirement savings account increase is empowering.

Look for opportunities to invest in your retirement through your employer’s sponsored plan or through an individual retirement account (IRA), among other options. And if you’re already saving for retirement, can you now afford to save more?

Change is constant in the military. A military transition is a major change for you, too. This is a perfect opportunity for you, as a military spouse, to ask yourself what’s next and guide your family into this next chapter and toward a solid financial future.

About the Author
Alecia D. Blair is the Military Saves communications project manager, AFC® candidate, and FINRA Foundation fellow.


Military Spouses on a Mission—Creating meaningful employment for those at home

R.Riveter Handbag Owners

The company R.Riveter was born from a patriotic mission to combat the often invisible contributions American military spouses make in support of their service members.

Their sacrifice on center stage is one that takes both an economic and emotional toll on military families across the nation. As military families move on average, once every 2.9 years, it’s often difficult for them to find and keep meaningful employment. In fact, the unemployment rate among military spouses is 42 percent, despite the fact that 85 percent want or need to work.

In 2011, military spouses Cameron Cruse, pictured above right, and Lisa Bradley, pictured above left, decided to stop being part of the problem and create a solution. What started as a dream in a small attic with one sewing machine and a bit of canvas has turned into a national remote manufacturing network, helping to create income for more than 100 military families across the country.

“Military spouse unemployment is an incredibly important issue that must be addressed. Every military spouse can relate to our story. This transient life makes it so hard to find and hold onto meaningful employment, and that’s why we created R.Riveter. We knew we could create stability with a remote manufacturing network. Everyone told us our model was a terrible idea—but we made it work. And it’s thriving,” said Lisa Bradley, R.Riveter CEO and cofounder.

R.Riveter handbags are made from authentic military or military-inspired materials. From hand-stitched liners to hand-cut leather, each R.Riveter handbag is crafted with a thoughtful, genuine purpose. Military spouses across the country sew parts and pieces of each bag, and parts are sent to R.Riveter’s FabShop outside of Ft. Bragg for assembly. From evening clutches and functional crossbody bags to large totes appropriate for work or travel, R.Riveter crafts handbags for every occasion.

An American success story, Shark Tank winner, Inc. 500 nominee, and RRiveter-handbagshandbag company on a mission, R.Riveter is looking forward to continue to change the face of American manufacturing, helping military families along the way.

R.Riveter has been recognized for its success on a national level. After securing a deal of investment and partnership with Shark Tank’s Mark Cuban in 2016, the company experienced year-over-year growth of 630 percent and $2.4 million in revenue. Most recently, Inc. ranked R.Riveter No. 298 on its 36th annual Inc. 5000, the most prestigious ranking of the nation’s fastest-growing private companies. The list represents a unique look at the most successful companies within the American economy’s most dynamic segment—its independent small and midsized businesses. Companies, such as Microsoft, Dell, Domino’s Pizza, Pandora, Timberland, LinkedIn, Yelp, Zillow, and many other well-known names, gained their first national exposure as honorees of the Inc. 5000.

Handbag-RRiveter“Making the Inc. 500 is an incredible milestone to celebrate. We’ve come so far since starting R.Riveter in 2011, but this is just the beginning. Our company has its sights set on a really big mission to combat military spouse unemployment, and we’ve only just begun,” said Cameron Cruse, R.Riveter cofounder.

  1. Riveter is a handbag company known nationwide for combating employment issues military spouses face while living a transient life. Cofounders Cameron Cruse and Lisa Bradley created a national remote manufacturing network to provide mobile, flexible income for spouses of America’s military members to earn regardless of where they live and how often they move. A Kickstarter campaign in 2015 and a 2016 deal on ABC’s hit TV show, Shark Tank, launched R.Riveter into the national spotlight. The company now creates hundreds of handbags a week.

For more information, contact: R.Riveter, Lisa Zimmermann, (262) 227-4314

“America’s Top 50 Organizations for Multicultural Business Opportunities” Announced


Today, OMNIKAL announced “America’s Top 50 Organizations for Multicultural Business Opportunities”,  known as the “Omni50.”

The Omni50 represent the top 50 U.S. organizations who are awarding the most business to the growing culturally diverse marketplace. These same organizations are also successfully appealing to the growing millennial generation, which, by 2020, will be the largest diverse market segment in America (a market segment that is forcing brands to evolve from minority/diversity paradigms to inclusion).

Apple Inc. was named the #1 Organization for Multicultural Business Opportunities in the United States. Other companies at the top of the winners list include: Walmart Inc., Northrop Grumman Corporation,AT&T Inc., IBM, The Coca-Cola Company, Bank of America, Raytheon Company, Verizon, General Motors Company, Time Warner Inc., PepsiCo Inc., United Parcel Service, Cisco Systems, Inc., Colgate-Palmolive Company, Altria Group and The Kroger Company.

Who are the Omni50?

The Omni50 represents the voice of OMNIKAL’s 2,100,000 members. The list is circulated by over 1000 organizations, which reaches millions of consumers every year. Since 1999, it has become a highly valued metric of excellence in reaching the diverse and inclusive majority marketplace.

The Omni50 Awards is the most recognized honor for diversity and inclusion in the country.  These award-winning companies truly differentiate themselves in the marketplace in a time when inclusion has become one of the most important goals of every organization. It is also at a time when public recognition is key to ongoing financial, ethical, social and cultural success.

“The inclusion practices of the “Omni50” Awardees have changed the course of our current economy and as a result, the world as we know it” said Kenton Clarke, CEO of OMNIKAL. “The changing multicultural and multi-generational landscape of our country has demanded this evolution. OMNIKAL is proud to have been a force in the business world for such positive change. Our mission and goal is to equalize, broaden and level the playing field for both brands and an increasingly varied vendor/supplier marketplace.”

Top Honors for Top Organizations Who Do the Right Thing

Most “top” lists honor companies for traditional economic growth, shareholder returns and similar metrics; however, the Omni50 awards are an indicator of which organizations provide the best business opportunities to the increasingly inclusive majority marketplace. This, in turn, influences more organizations, as they compete for market share in multicultural and multigenerational communities.

The Business Power of Inclusion

As the culturally diverse market gains more buying power, corporations have to focus their efforts on rebranding and reorganizing to avoid losing market share and to remain current and relevant.

The Omni50 list has therefore become the most critical guide for businesses as well as consumers. “As a business owner, I appreciate the business we receive from corporate buyers; and in turn, when I buy either personally or for my company, I am more likely to buy from the same companies that support my business or are supporting businesses like mine,” said Kathy Steele, principle of Red Caffeine headquartered in Elmhurst, Illinois.


OMNIKAL was founded in 1999. Now the Nation’s largest inclusive business organization, OMNIKAL promotes entrepreneurship and the belief that entrepreneurs create real world solutions to today’s business and economic challenges. By fostering deeper and broader collaboration between business owners and entrepreneurial support organizations, the OMNIKAL network fuels healthier ecosystems through job creation, professional development and drives innovation resulting in strong economic growth.


Click here to see the full list of companies

Hilton Offering Jobs and Free Hotel Stays


Hilton has a long legacy of supporting the military, dating back to its founder, Conrad Hilton, a U.S. Army veteran who served in World War I. In August 2013, Hilton launched Operation: Opportunity, with a commitment to hire 10,000 veterans and military spouses by 2018. The company accomplished that goal two years ahead of schedule and is now committing to hire an additional 20,000 military hires by the end of 2020. Veterans and their spouses are a natural fit at Hilton because of the company’s shared values with the military, like leadership, integrity and teamwork.

Hilton is now offering a unique benefit to veterans: free hotel stays for job-hunt related travel.

Here’s how it works: Veterans who need to travel for any job-related activity, in any industry, can register with their local employment office and receive 100,000 Hilton Honors points to cover their lodging. Veterans most commonly use the program when they’re traveling out of town for interviews, trainings and certifications. Hilton partners with the National Association of State Workforce Agencies to donate points throughout the year—and more than 1,100 veterans have benefitted from Hilton’s 1.2 million points donated to date.

The Points donation program is one of many ways Hilton is using its business of hospitality to support active duty military, veterans and their families. A few others include:

  • Discounted stays: Active and retired military and their families receive a 10 percent discount at all of Hilton’s 14 hotel brands
  • Military spouse career program: Hilton has developed dedicated career paths that accommodate the unique challenges military spouses and their families face. Military spouses often have trouble finding jobs when the family relocates. Hilton’s work-from-home program offers virtual training, remote working options that can relocate with employees, and flexible schedules for better work-life balance.


12 Ways to Land That Civilian Job


You’ve proven your commitment, discipline, and resourcefulness in the military world. Now it’s time to trade in your experience for a great job. Just like everything, it’s all about readiness and attitude. Start early. Be prepared. Go for it.

1. First step, verify yourself. Your Verification of Military Experience and Training summarizes your skills, knowledge and experience, and suggests civilian equivalent job titles. Get yours through the Department of Defense at the Transition GPS website.

2. Get a career assessment. You have considerable strengths and skills. Now, how can they be applied to a civilian job? A career assessment can point the way. Military installation Transition Centers can set you up with a test at no cost.

3. Translate your experience into Civilian. Your military licenses or certifications might not be recognizable to the civilian world. Search your service branch’s Credentialing Opportunities Online site to learn how to translate training and experience into skills employers recognize.

4. Assess, repeat. Narrow your search to a few career fields and check salary information and common skill requirements. Decide on the type of job, pay range, and location you’re willing to accept. But don’t pigeon-hole yourself. If you’re not making headway, adjust your expectations or explore new options.

5. Get out there. Take advantage of every opportunity: recruiters, military transition offices, even old-school help wanted ads. Contact your nearest employment office or private employment agencies (make sure you know who’s paying). Check Internet job sites—but watch it. Get recommendations about trustworthy sites.

6. Tap your transition assistance offices. Take an employment workshop. Get referrals for employment agencies and recruiters, job leads, career counseling, and computer access for online job searches. Transition assistance offices have a wealth of services.

7. Look good online. Employers check social media almost immediately when they’re thinking of hiring. Do you need to remove material that makes you look like a bad hire? Get a grown-up email address? How about creating or updating your profile on LinkedIn?

8. Hit the job fairs. This is one-stop shopping. Meet potential employers, pass out resumes, and interview on the spot, all in one place. Look sharp and practice your interview skills beforehand. Learn about upcoming job fairs and who will be there at your transition office as well as online.

9. Go from military to Fed. Find civilian jobs online with the federal government through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. You can also create an account and build your résumé at USAJOBS. Brush up on the website’s process before submitting your résumé by taking the online workshop for federal employment and searching for TGPS courses.

10. Be a civilian in the military. Find civilian jobs online through the Air Force Civilian Service, Navy Civilian Human Resources, or Civilian Personnel Online for the Army.

11. Network, then network some more. Networking is one of the most effective of all job search tools. You’ve made a lot of great connections during your time in the service. Transition is the right time to start putting them to work. Get in touch with friends and fellow veterans. It’s a good thing to re-establish friendships as you transition.

12. Take advantage of your status. Many organizations are committed to helping veterans find a good job. Look for groups with programs like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring Our Heroes initiative. Check out organizations like Soldier for Life, Marine for Life, the Military Officers Association of America, Non Commissioned Officers Association or Enlisted Association, and United Service Organizations.

Your military experience is valuable to many employers. Not many people have your proven work ethic and dedication. Like everything, finding the right job is a matter of being prepared and doing the work. You’re in the military. You know how to make that happen. And there are lots of people and resources who want to back you up.


Long Beach Native helps train the Navy’s best pilots at TOPGUN


FALLON, Nev. – In Nevada’s high desert is the Navy’s premiere tactical air warfare training center, home to the Naval Aviation Warfighting Development Center and it’s Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor program, known to the world as TOPGUN. A 2000 Narbonne High School graduate and Long Beach, California, native is part of the Navy’s finest aviation fighter training facility in the world.

Petty Officer 1st Class Frank Blackman is an aviation machinist’s mate working with the Strike Fighter Wing Pacific Detachment stationed aboard Naval Air Station Fallon, Nevada. As a Navy aviation machinist’s mate and first class petty officer, Blackman is responsible for supervising the maintenance of aircraft engines and their related systems while ensuring quality control and safety.

“I joined the Navy for a lifestyle change, to expand my horizons and explore new opportunities,” said Blackman.

TOPGUN began 48 years ago with the determination of nine pilots, the skepticism of the government and almost no budget as history would recall. In the early years it turned the tide of a losing air war in Vietnam, revolutionized military doctrine, inspired a Hollywood blockbuster and attracted and trained the best allied pilots and air crew from all over the world.

Blackman plays a crucial role in the overall mission that flies over 5,000 adversary sorties per year in support of the Navy and Marine Corp Active and Reserve fleet and replacement squadrons, carrier air wings and marine aircraft groups including the United States Air Force, Air Force Reserve and Air National guard and Canadian Forces.

“Nowhere in the world does the Navy have the ability to train as we do in NAS Fallon,” said NAS Fallon Commanding Officer, Capt. David Halloran. “The Navy specifically chose NAS Fallon as the location for Top Gun and the Naval Special Warfare Tactical Ground Mobility Training Center because of the desert climate, mountainous terrain, and sophisticated ranges available in northern Nevada.  Every Carrier Air Wing and Navy Seal Team is required to receive the essential training provided here prior to being deployed in theater.”

According to Navy officials, TOPGUN is highly competitive and exposes Navy and Marine Corp pilots to the most demanding training scenarios in fighter aviation lead by some of the most talented pilots in the world. Each pilot is hand-selected for air-to-air and air-to-ground training and subsequently, as a TOPGUN instructor. “I’m the first in my family to serve in the military,” said Blackman. “I’m proud of my five Navy Achievement Medals and the being a part of the humanitarian assistant response after the tsunami in Thailand.”

Blackman also said they are proud to serve at the center of excellence for naval aviation, training and tactics development.

The future of U.S. aviation depends on the Navy’s ability to achieve their vision for defeating tomorrow’s air threats with the support of the ground crews and pilots.

“Serving in the Navy gives me the opportunity to provide for my family,” added Blackman. “I love the camaraderie and close-knit community.”

Lt. Bridget Mitchell, Navy Office of Community Outreach
Photo by-
Senior Chief Mass Communication Specialist Gary Ward

Former Navy SEAL teams up with former Under Armour execs to found new denim brand, Revtown


Pittsburgh, Pa. – Revtown, a new denim brand, today launched its first collection of hand-crafted, premium jeans at Revtown Jeans are built with DECADE DENIM™, the brand’s patented fabric that is infused with four-way, dynamic stretch, and constructed with the strongest fibers in apparel design today.

“We’re thrilled to announce the launch of Revtown,” said Henry Stafford, Founder and CEO of Revtown. “With Decade Denim, we’ve created a level comfort, fit and feel that hasn’t been experienced in a pair of jeans. And we’re proud to deliver our jeans directly to the consumer for less than half the price of a typical pair of designer jeans.”

This first Revtown collection is designed for men. A women’s collection is in design for next year.

Revtown was founded by a group with extensive experience in the apparel world. Stafford and Steve Battista, Revtown’s Chief Marketing Officer, worked together for nearly a decade at Under Armour as leaders of product, and brand, respectively. Stafford was chief merchandising officer at American Eagle Outfitters before spending more than six years at Under Armour, overseeing product and all of the company’s North American business. Battista served as Under Armour’s head of brand and creative, among other leadership roles over 17 years.

The company’s founders also include Matthew Maasdam and Chris Lust. Maasdam, Revtown’s Chief Digital Officer, served 14 years as a Navy SEAL and later as the U.S. Navy’s aide to the President of the United States, before running e-commerce Operations for Under Armour. Chris Lust, founder and partner of Dock Street Capital Management and SLC Capital Management, will serve as Revtown’s CFO.

The Revtown product team boasts some of the top designers and engineers from the most innovative athletic apparel brands today, complemented by a denim manufacturing team that has made over 150 million pairs of jeans, with a combined 100 years of denim production experience.

Revtown Jeans come in two fits styles, SHARP and AUTOMATIC. Sharp jeans are fitted with a refined look, more dress than casual, yet with the flex of DECADE DENIM™. Automatic jeans are for “any guy, any time, any place.” Automatic jeans are designed to be mobile, not baggy, providing ultimate comfort without having to size up.

Revtown also offers Revtown Shirts, made from world-class Pima cotton. Revtown Shirts come in four essential styles, including Crew, V-Neck, Henley and Polo. Also available as Revtown launches are Revtown Crates, offering two pairs of jeans and any three shirts for just $210.

For your perfect pair of jeans, visit

About Revtown:
Launched in 2018, Revtown is a new denim brand delivering “Ridiculous Quality, & Unbelievable Fit for Half the Price.” The Brand’s signature fabric is DECADE DENIM™, constructed with a stretch yarn that provides all-over stretch and supreme comfort in a proper pair of jeans. Revtown’s headquarters are in Pittsburgh, Pa. –

Kirstie Ennis: Going “Full Throttle”

Kirstie Ennis

By Brady Rhoades

Veteran Kirstie Ennis is one of the best Paralympian snowboarders in the world, and she’s also eying the seven great summits, recently climbing 19,341-foot Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa and 16,024-foot Carstensz Pyramid in Indonesia. On one leg.

As a Marine Corps sergeant. in Afghanistan—a helicopter door gunner—she wrecked a leg when the helicopter she was in crashed. That leg was amputated above the knee in 2015.

Her jaw was destroyed, she lost teeth, she injured discs in her spine, and she suffered facial lacerations, traumatic brain injury, and PTSD.

In the process of undergoing more than 40 surgeries, she came to a realization, acquiring a come-to-terms toughness and wisdom that would help motivate her to train as a snowboarder for the 2018 Winter Paralympic Games in Pyeongchang County, in the Gangwon region of South Korea.

And to attempt to conquer the tallest peaks on all seven continents.

Countless times a day, she repeats one of her mantras: Stop worrying about what you lost. Look at what you’ve got. Or: What counts is what’s behind your rib cage and six inches between your ears.

She’s only 26, but her near-death experience offered an invaluable lesson on how precious time is.

“I go full throttle,” she said. “I come up with obnoxious goals and I go after them.”

It’s hard to believe that this fifth-gear athlete chasing Paralympian goals—and literally ascending historic heights for an above-the-knee-amputee mountain climber—spent months in hospital beds, nearly lifeless, filled with doubt, enveloped in depression. She wondered how she’d ever get around, go on. What would she do? Would she ever wear a dress again? Would anyone ever be attracted to her?

Idle time can be a wounded warrior’s worst enemy. Fathers can be their best friends.

“Dad said, ‘People in the Middle East couldn’t kill you, and now you’re going to collapse?'” she recalls. “The light went on and I said, ‘I made it home. Nobody owes me a damn thing.'”

Kirstie Ennis

Ennis had to mine for the toughness that is at her core, but her sense of humor? That comes effortlessly.

The same year her leg was amputated, she participated in the Walking with the Wounded event, in which wounded warriors trek 1,000 miles, ending at Buckingham Palace in London. Ennis left dozens of dog tags bearing the names of fallen comrades along the way. She also met Prince Harry, a veteran of the war in Afghanistan.

Prince Harry, not one to shirk his duties, logged many miles during the event. At one point, he turned to Ennis and complained that his knee ached.

“I looked over and was like, ‘That’s (expletive) cute, really,’” Ennis said. Prince Harry cracked up.

Ennis and Prince Harry became fast friends. At the conclusion of her walk, she presented the final dog tag to him.

Their embrace was photographed and zoomed across the wires, making her a celebrity in a matter of minutes.

For her service to the country, Ennis has earned the NATO Medal, Combat Action Wings with three gold stars, National Defense Medal, Global War on Terrorism Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, Air Medal, Good Conduct Medal, Afghanistan National Campaign Medal, two Letters of Appreciation, Certificate of Commendation, and a Certificate of Appreciation.

But who says you can’t be uber-tough and sexy?

ESPN called, asking her to grace the cover of ESPN The Magazine‘s 2017 Body Issue, with rather risqué photos of her on the inside pages. They wanted her to climb Joshua Tree, sans clothes.

She had her doubts. But Ennis tends to run toward challenges, toward fear.

“I thought about it and considered the demographic and the people Kirstie Ennisthat would see it, and I realized that it wasn’t about me anymore,” she said. “Any man, woman, or child facing some sort of adversity has the potential to be inspired by these pictures of someone who has only been missing her leg for a few years go out and do things she wasn’t doing with two legs.”

Ennis appeared in the Body Issue, along with other great athletes, such as Javier Baez (baseball), A.J. Andrews (softball), and Malakai Fekitoa (rugby).

The daughter of two Marines, Ennis enlisted out of Florida when she was 17 years old, in 2008. She served for four years as a helicopter door gunner and airframes mechanic when disaster struck on June 23, 2012.

While on her second deployment in Afghanistan, Ennis’ CH-53D helicopter crashed in the Helmand Province.

Badly injured, she fought to remain on active duty but was medically retired in 2014. After her below-the-knee amputation on November 23, 2015, Ennis contracted the antibiotic-resistant MRSA and, because of a resulting infection, doctors were forced to remove her knee a month later.

“A below-the-knee amputation is night-and-day from above-the-knee,” she said. “You have to relearn everything. You’re basically a toddler.”

When she was told that surgeons would have to perform above-the-knee surgery, she said she “lost it.” She cried. She wailed.

“It’s one curveball after another,” she said.

She still struggles, emotionally. “I’d be lying if I said it’s easy,” she said.

Two years after her life-altering surgery, she’s adapted, and she’s developed coping skills, which is a critical component of recovery.

Focus on what you have, not on what you don’t.

Set lofty goals.

Stay busy.

And true to her military training, be of service to others.

“When I’m having a bad day, I help someone who’s missing three limbs,” she said. “There’s this common misconception about what strength is. In the grand scheme of things, we’re in this together. You have to realize that you have to turn to somebody.”

Some of her best days involving helping other wounded warriors—whether it be through her notoriety as a star Paralympian or simply visiting a hospital.

“I know I’m on a platform,” she said. “I want to inspire people to reach their potential.”

She recalls a wounded warrior uttering eight words that she’ll never forget and that make her journey—as harrowing as it has been—worth it.

“You inspired me to walk another 10 steps,” the woman said.


Top Cities for Small Business Startups

Top Cities for Startups

Veterans continue to do more than their fair share after leaving the military: At least one-in-four veterans in the workforce are running their own business, a rate that is 7.7 percentage points greater than the national average, according to the Census Bureau.

“Time and again, servicemen and women across the country have shared with us a main reason why they became entrepreneurs: Their experience in the military carried over into a career in which they control their own destiny, sometimes by equipping them with the technical skills needed in their second career, but always by ensuring that they had the ‘soft skills’ so critical to running a small business,” said Thumbtack Economist Lucas Puente, PhD.

Thumbtack is an online service that matches customers with local professionals.

“At Thumbtack, we celebrate the 2.5 million veterans who run their own small businesses in the U.S.,” continued Puente, “and encourage local governmental leadership to ensure veterans pursuing this path have the resources they need to succeed.”

As part of Thumbtack’s 2017 Small Business Friendliness Survey, 1,371 veteran-small-business-owners on Thumbtack were asked to evaluate their local governments’ support for businesses like theirs to determine the best communities for veterans to start, manage and grow a small business. Leadership by local governmental and political officials in the top cities are tasked with ensuring veteran entrepreneurs have the resources they need to succeed and don’t get stymied by the local regulatory or tax infrastructure.

The cities that made the top 5 list were—

  1. Austin, Texas
  2. Houston, Texas
  3. Charlotte, North Carolina
  4. Fort Worth, Texas
  5. Los Angeles, California

The veterans interviewed for this study noted a military background alone isn’t sufficient to develop a thriving business; another factor they pointed to is a supportive community. While every business’ needs are different, the study indicates operating in a place where veteran-owned businesses are valued by clients, bankers, suppliers, and others can provide a leg up in the harrowing process of starting and growing a small business. These locations proved they do value their local veteran-owned businesses.

“Austin is a phenomenal place for a veteran to start a business,” said Thumbtack Pro Teri Young, owner of Teri Young Photography. “The community is rich with active and retired military personnel, as well as an abundance of supportive, patriotic civilians. With local programs like ‘Boots to Business’ and SCORE, the idea of becoming my own boss was a much clearer reality.”


Marine veteran paying it forward

Marine Veteran


DAV claims assistance inspires Marine veteran to give back as service officer

After receiving assistance from DAV benefits specialist Dan Knabe, Marine Corps veteran Mike Franko was inspired to give back. Just months after receiving a corrected rating from the VA, the Afghanistan War veteran began training as a Department of Missouri service officer, a role where he can pay it forward to fellow veterans.

Mike Franko filed a claim for disability benefits following his discharge from the military in 2016, but an error resulted in the Marine Corps veteran not receiving the benefits he earned through service.

After being rated at zero percent for his battered knees and denied a rating for post-traumatic stress, the former infantryman was convinced he did not warrant support through the VA. That all changed when he was referred to DAV.

“Initially, I was thinking there’s too many Marines, soldiers, sailors and airmen who deserve it more than me, but I was finally convinced I’m as deserving as they are,” said Franko, who served as a squad leader in Afghanistan. “[My family and friends] said, ‘Your back and legs are messed up from being blown up; you deserve support.’”

Someone suggested he speak with a veterans service organization. That is when he met DAV National Service Officer Dan Knabe.

The DAV benefits advocate reviewed Franko’s files and immediately DAV Assistancesaw red flags.

“Mike had pain in motion, and in accordance with VA rules, that is automatically a 10 percent evaluation,” said Knabe. “That got me curious, and then I looked further and saw the denied service connection for post-traumatic stress. The decision confirmed a diagnosis but not a stressor.”

Knabe sifted through the veteran’s files and noticed he had received a Combat Action Ribbon.

“That is when I knew there was a clear and unmistakable error, because that award is a presumptive stressor for post-traumatic stress,” explained Knabe, an Army veteran. He immediately went to meet with his VA counterparts. They agreed with his discovery and quickly came back with a correct rating that provides Franko access to the benefits and services he should have been awarded right away.

“We do not typically find that many mistakes, but cases like this show the spirit of a service officer,” said Knabe. “It puts that feeling in your heart that you’re making a difference.

“We have a great professional relationship with the VA here in St. Louis and communicate regularly on cases, give each other feedback and come to a mutual agreement in order to get the veteran what’s right based on their record.”

St. Louis VA Regional Office Director Mitzi Marsh agreed on the importance of working together.

“The regional office’s goal is to make the right decision and provide all the benefits veterans have earned. If there is a concern, we work closely with veterans service organizations to review it and, if necessary, correct the problem,” said Marsh, an Army veteran. “We see our relationship with veterans service organizations only continuing to grow in the future through initiatives like Decision Ready Claims and other programs.”

“I was retroactively awarded, and I don’t think that would have happened without Dan’s help,” said Franko. “Dan expedited the whole process, especially compared to my original claim.”

Franko had wanted to work in law enforcement but knew his injuries would inhibit him. So instead, he decided to pay forward Knabe’s assistance to other veterans.

“I thought if I can’t serve my local community, then why don’t I serve the veteran community,” said Franko. “After seeing Dan work and do what he did for me, now I can sit on his side of the desk and help fellow veterans.”

He relayed his interest to Knabe. The next day, Franko received a call about a service officer position with the DAV Department of Missouri and was told he should apply.

Knabe, who had gone through his own rough patch after a deployment to Iraq but received help through the VA, said he’d found his way to serve veterans in a similar way.

“I was [a noncommissioned officer] so I have always had a passion to help. I was making sure soldiers were successful not only in the military but in life,” Knabe said. “I was lost when I came back, trying to find meaning as a civilian, and that’s when I found DAV. It’s about service and the mission. DAV saved me from a dark time and restored my sense of purpose.

“DAV took care of me, and now I hope I take care of DAV. I am honored it inspires Mike to have that same passion to assist fellow service members.”

DAV Department of Missouri Adjutant Michael Elmore was happy to welcome Franko on board.

“We are excited to have Mike join 16 other dedicated veterans as a DAV Department of Missouri service officer,” said Elmore. “The Show-Me State is fortunate to have another talented advocate assist the nearly half a million veterans living in Missouri with DAV’s life-changing benefits and services.”

Franko began his training in November and looks forward to bringing his unique skill set as a recently discharged veteran to the office.

“I’m young blood with a fresh mind, bringing a new perspective that can hopefully help veterans not just through claims but also different aspects of life,” said Franko.

“It is a victory anytime we can help a veteran with a claim, but to have a client be so inspired they choose to give back in their career full-time is incredibly meaningful,” said DAV National Service Director Jim Marszalek. “DAV is veterans helping veterans, and Dan and Mike are living examples of our mission of service.”