Business Boot Camp Benefits Disabled Vets

August 27, 2008

Often when a Soldier is injured and is unable to return to active duty military life and has to be medically retired, one of the things that they worry about the most, is how they’re going to be able to support their families. Often they feel that the experiences in the military, won’t translate well into the civilian world. The VA, Wounded Warrior Project and other organizations offer training opportunities and employment opportunities for our wounded warriors.

Recently at College Station, Texas 16 military veterans, all who have lasting physical and emotional injuries caused from their time in combat, attended a weeklong workshop at Texas A & M University. The workshop was designed to help the veterans become successful business owners. One veteran who attended the event, excitedly leaped to the front of the room, to present his idea for a design business, to the group.

“Hello everyone,” he said, taking the microphone. “My name is Orlando Castaneda and I am a combat veteran.”1

The program at Texas A & M, called the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities, started initially at Syracuse University in New York, just last summer. This year several other colleges started the program as well, including A & M, Florida State University and the University of California at Los Angeles.

The week long boot camp at A & M ended last Saturday. During the week, Castaneda and other participants were able to present their ideas for businesses to a panel of business personnel from Bryan-College Station and other cities in Texas. The group of wounded warriors who participated, included 13 men and 3 women. Their injuries ranged from hearing loss, burns, and brain injuries. They were taught things such as the essentials of operating a business. Their instructors were the business faculty at Texas A & M. The program doesn’t end however with the final day of the class. They are still able to send their ideas and business plants to Richard Lester, the director of academic entrepreneurship programs at A & M.

“They can send their business plans to me,” Lester said. “I’ll vet it or send it to other faculty.”2

The ideas that the wounded warriors had for businesses ranged from Castaneda’s design business, to a school for at-risk children, a specialty sneaker store to a business that provides specialty equipment for military bomb technicians. Many of the veterans, wanted their business to be one that could help Soldiers who are still in the military or those who have served in the past.

“I’m a big believer in veterans helping veterans,” said Castaneda, who volunteers at a Dallas VA, while still receiving treatment for the TBI he suffered. “I believe it’s my responsibility to make sure other Soldiers are OK. Soldiers do need a lot of help,” he said. “There’s not many people that stick up for Soldiers.”3

This is a fantastic opportunity for our wounded warriors, who might desire to become business owners. With the training and information provided at these sessions, they can be better prepared for what it will take to operate a business of their own. Hopefully more colleges across the country will develop the same or similar programs to help wounded warriors.

Houston Chronicle

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