"In times of war or uncertainty there is a special breed of warrior ready to answer our Nation’s call."--Navy SEAL Creed

I first felt the call to serve while working as a financial analyst after graduating from Southern Methodist University in Dallas. I made the decision to quit my job and join the Navy, determined to take on the most revered and notorious selection-and-training program the U.S. military has to offer: Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL.

I passed the initial test and was selected to start training with BUD/s class 235 in September 2000. Of the 250 students that began training with our class, 23 of us ultimately graduated and moved on to advanced training. But we learned very early in this journey about loss and sacrifice. The third week of the 18-month pipeline to becoming a Navy SEAL is called Hell Week. It is designed to weed out those not fully committed to the mission of becoming one of the most elite special operations warriors in the world. Something happened that would forever change our perspective on what it means to serve. Our class leader, LT John Skopp, passed away on Thursday night of Hell Week. From that moment on, it became clear that there are people in this country willing to risk their lives just to get the opportunity to defend it. John was an incredible patriot and destined for an amazing career. But like many of our brave soldiers, his opportunity to serve was cut short.

The Opportunity to Serve

Those of us who graduated went on to advanced training and then 9/11 happened. That was the second time the perspective on our decision to serve took on a new meaning. I went on to SEAL Team 5 and joined my platoon. After about 18 months of training, we deployed to Iraq to perform capture or kill missions in and around Baghdad, Al Fallujah and Ramadi.

During our first close-quarters gun battle, one of our team members took an AK47 round right through the night-vision mount on his helmet. He didn’t even realize it until the next day when he was prepping his gear for the next mission. We went on to perform dozens of combat missions during that tour without so much as a scratch, which was an incredible blessing. But the longer you fight the same enemy, the more they adapt to your tactics and become increasingly dangerous.

Since 9/11, more than 70 SEALs have made the ultimate sacrifice and countless more have returned home severely wounded. Our nation’s wounded warriors have scars you can see, and many that you can’t. Their families sacrifice just as much as they do. Sometimes more.

That’s why we all have a responsibility to serve this country and support our active-duty service men and women and veterans. Our service doesn’t have to come in the form of putting on a uniform and going down range into harm’s way. From great organizations like the Navy SEAL Foundation and Wounded Warrior Project, to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Hiring Our Heroes program, we are helping get these brave Americans get back on their feet.

Our wounded warriors serve with courage and humility on and off the battlefield. They come home to a new reality and obstacles that seem insurmountable. But I guarantee every single one simply feels honored to have had the opportunity to serve. You can thank them for their service and they will deflect that praise to their brothers and sisters that sacrificed their lives defending our freedom.  

Ask yourself today what you can do to serve our country’s heroes.