NEW YORK— War has been described as hell. For many military veterans coming back from combat, the transition to civilian life is difficult. On Wall Street, one company says it feels obligated to do something about it.
Mike Pacca was a sniper who served four tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. Danny Morales was a Marine sergeant in Iraq. Joe Krulder was with the 101st Airborne for two tours in Iraq. And John Martinko was a Ranger, serving seven tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.
They are four among more than 30 combat veterans who got job training at the Wall Street firm Drexel Hamilton.
Jim Cahill, president at Drexel, said, “Some of these people have five children, four children, and when we give them an opportunity to be back with their family and making a living we find that heals a lot of wounds.”
One of the wounded vets, Martinko, was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The graduate of the U.S. military academy West Point now works as a manager at Drexel Hamilton. He said the skills he learned on the battlefield help him here.
“A lot of the communications equipment that I had to manage on the battlefield is a direct correlation to the see the screens behind me. Managing the Bloomberg terminals, the proprietary trading systems, the day-to-day business as far as keeping the task organization of our day is a direct correlation to the task organization of rolling out on a target in the middle of the night in Afghanistan 2 o’clock local,” said Martinko.
All vets in the program are paired up with seasoned Wall Street pros and mentored for months.
Iraq Marine vet Morales, who served eight years, said, “You are sitting next to them and you are allowed to pick their brain, and in any other shop in this business is going to take you two or three years at the minimum to be able to sit at the desk. They are definitely receptive to us veterans. They understand we come from a little bit of a different background. And it’s been fantastic working here every day."
Turning lives around
Veterans say the program has literally saved lives. Krulder was living in his car while his family was in the Midwest. He was in such despair - no job, no place to live - that he considered what many returning vets have - committing suicide. And then he met Cahill.
“I did not have the pedigree or come from the big schools, Wall Street was the movies and the dreams," said Krulder. "And then these men said, 'No, no, we think you have what it takes. I think it was about 60 days, Jimmie, Jim Cahill, he still has the cards my children, without knowing, made cards, just folded white paper in half and drew pictures and my oldest daughter, Autumn, in the card told Jimmy, 'Thank you, I have never seen … I have never seen my father so happy.' So you look back and you realize all these years how hard it was on my children. How hard it was on my wife. And my friends and family.”
Cahill urges corporate America and other employers to give vets like this a chance. He said Drexell Hamilton has found they make great employees.”