Never Forget Where You Came From

Business meeting between a team of professionals.

I was shocked. A business school mentor of mine introduced me over email to Marshall Carter, 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 several years, Mr. Carter has always made time for me whenever I email or call. He has even made time to come speak to the student-veterans in my transition class every semester as well.

Mr. Carter is a former Vietnam veteran who is now running the legendary New York Stock Exchange. And regardless of what he's doing, he always finds time to speak to a transitioning veteran. 

And he's not the only executive who's been so generous with his time. Other very senior executives, with more on their plates than I can possibly fathom, 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 come from.

They remember the challenges they faced returning home from war and trying to start a new life. They remember that they didn't 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 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. I think it's shameful. They received the support and assistance from veterans when they needed it, and now that they successfully started new careers, they can't 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 to a company – they are trying very hard to fit in and establish themselves. Oftentimes vets 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 the 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.

 Michael Abrams is an Afghanistan veteran and Founder of Four Block, a veteran career development program based in New York.  He is the author of Business Networking for Veterans as well as an Adjunct Professor at Fordham University.

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