Returning to civilian life after their tours of duty presents many challenges for veterans—from reconnecting to their loved ones to overcoming traumatic experiences. But another, less widely recognized challenge is rejoining the workforce. In September 2006, when former Navy SEAL, Christopher Mark Heben returned from active duty with the United States Special Operations Command to Cleveland, Ohio, and his pregnant wife, four cats, and a dog—it was a challenge both financially and emotionally.
After his return home, Heben decided to continue his education and become a physician assistant. He thought he would find stability and responsibility working as a PA but he wasn’t satisfied with the job: “I quickly realized that I was at the mercy of my attending physician, as well as the bureaucratic administration policies of the hospitals, clinics, and surgery centers where we worked,” he said. “I needed to find a way to blend my medical and my military training and I needed to find one fast.” Heben left his PA position in 2007, and in June 2008, he opened Medical Security International, LLC (MSI), with his partner Dr. Matthew H. Evenhouse.
Their company offers protection services provided by former Special Forces operators with combat medical experience to high-level CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, celebrities, members of the United States Congress and Senate, and other public officials. They also provide military products and tactical emergency medical training from elite medical and military organizations to SWAT teams, police officers, and other public safety personnel. In addition to this training, they also offer “The New First Aid,” an industrial safety program available to anyone that teaches citizens how to respond to emergency incidents and accidents.
Growing MSI has helped Heben assimilate to his new life and helped fill a void: “As a veteran and an entrepreneur, I am able to combine the best of both of these worlds to serve others,” he said. “The SEAL side of me is a risk-taker and an explorer, and I do believe that to be successful as a business owner, there has to be an acceptance of risk. Without risk, there can be no innovation.”
To help veterans get their businesses started, the Federal Government’s Joint Chiefs of Staff’s Warrior and Family Support office provides resources. This office connects veterans with support organizations, including those that help soldiers build business skills and develop their entrepreneurial drive. “The more veterans who utilize this service, the more successful veteran entrepreneurs the United States will have,” Heben said. “I wish I had known about what they offer when I started [MSI].” The office offers a range of programs to help veterans, from finding access to loans so they can pursue their ideas to teaching them how to develop a business model and mentorship programs with already-successful entrepreneurs.
Major Ed Kennedy, a representative of the office, says making sure veterans know where to find help is paramount. “We roll up our sleeves, develop programs, and spread the message,” he said. “There are programs that exist but they can’t always reach the veterans, and veterans need help, but they don’t always know where to turn. We connect them.”
Lindsay Tigar is the Editorial Assistant at The New York Enterprise Report. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.