More than 4 million veterans own businesses in the United States, and that number may soon swell as troops from the Mideast come home. In peacetime, 200,000 people retire from the military each year. But that rate can surge as much as 50% in the six months following a conflict, experts say.

Newly minted vets with business on their minds will have more resources available as they start companies -- including increased access to capital. The Pentagon Federal Credit Union, with more than 500,000 members affiliated with the military, entered a partnership earlier this year with National Cooperative Bank to dish out small-business loans for the first time. The credit union may offer its own loans of $250,000 or less starting later this year.

And there are now several firms that advise troops-turned-entrepreneurs, including the Veterans Corporation, Veterans Business Network, and the Center for Veterans Enterprise. "When people come out of the service, they're independent and self-sufficient," says Chuck Windsor, spokesman for the Veterans Corporation, based in Alexandria, Va. "So they have a lot of skills important to running a small business."

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