Six months into his Army deployment in Iraq, Scott Smiley‘s life was nearly ended by a roadside bomb, causing him to go totally blind. A West Point grad, an Army Ranger with a bright career ahead and newly married to his high school sweetheart, his deployment to Mosul, Iraq in October 2005 changed the course of his life.
In Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, for every U.S. soldier killed, seven are wounded. Combined, over 48,000 service members have been physically injured in the recent military conflicts.
In addition to the physical wounds, it is estimated as many as 400,000 service members live with the invisible wounds of war, including combat-related stress, major depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
For many combat-injured veterans, there can be uncertainty in what their next mission — especially in the civilian sector — might be.
While many companies in America sign a pledge to hire veterans, some of those positions are more designed for public appearance and not impact. Many companies fail to capitalize on the skills, abilities, and dedication veterans bring to the market place.
Except Drexel Hamilton. Drexel is a service-disabled veteran owned brokerage based in downtown New York founded with the mission of helping combat veterans gain a foothold in the financial industry upon returning back to civilian life.
To be clear, Drexel is not a charity to give combat veterans a handout. They are a full-service Wall Street brokerage firm that is committed to making their clients money and hard work is required.
What separates them from the rest is that they are the only service-disabled, veteran-owned financial institution named to Military Times’ 2016 “Best for Vets” list.
Lawrence Doll, chairman and founder, is a service-disabled United States Marine Corps veteran whose duty in Vietnam earned him two Purple Hearts, the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, and a prestigious appointment to the U.S. Marine Corps Honor Guard in Washington, DC.
And Doll has built his firm with a team of committed, loyal, and smart individuals. With only 10 employees in 2010, Drexel now has close to 100 — and 39 are veterans. More than 20 of the 39 are disabled veterans.
I had the opportunity to interview John Glynn, managing director of corporate trading. John is part of Drexel’s senior management and heads the firm’s trading in corporate bonds. He spoke of the commitment Drexel has to not just to the industry and their clients, but more importantly to our combat service members.
“Drexel identifies the work ethic and we’ve found a strong work ethic in this veteran crew. Close to 90 percent of [veteran] hires have no background in the industry, [but what] they have is a strong desire to add value to clients. We’ve found the secret to adding value and making money.”
And they do make money. Last year Drexel was involved in nearly $12.8 billion of commercial mortgage-backed securities; and that is only one of their service lines.
Remember Scott Smiley? After his near-death experience, Scotty, as he goes by now, returned to active duty, where he taught leadership and commanded a Warrior Transition Unit at West Point. He was the Army’s first blind active duty officer and commander and a recipient of the Purple Heart, Bronze star and the prestigious Macarthur Leadership Award.
When he transitioned from active duty to the civilian sector, aside from writing a book, enduring an Iron Man, and providing a message of hope across the country to hundreds of organizations, he joined Drexel.
Scotty is now developing Drexel’s capital markets relationships with corporate issuers in the Northwest. He reports in to John, who is in the heart of Wall Street, from his home in Spokane, where he is raising his three boys with his high school sweetheart.
Bottom line: Skill can be trained. When industry looks beyond immediate skill and pays attention to character, aptitude, and work ethic, it will thrive. A shout-out and salute to Drexel Hamilton – a true Wall Street leader that is engaging and deploying today’s greatest asset — the U.S. veteran.
— By Michael Schindler
Michael Schindler, Navy veteran, and president of Edmonds-based Operation Military Family, is a guest writer for several national publications, author of the book “Operation Military Family” and “The Military Wire” blog. He is also a popular keynote and workshop speaker who reaches thousands of service members and their families every year through workshops and seminars that include “How to Battle-Ready Your Relationship” or “What Your Mother-in-Law Didn’t Tell You.” He received the 2010 Outstanding Patriotic Service Award from the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs