Jun 14

Continuing to Serve in Your Post-Military Career


Over the past two years, I have interviewed several former military leaders who decided to pursue the nonprofit sector as a second career or as  a volunteer experience. It is clear that many find the continued commitment to mission and a desire to help others to be a natural fit following a long military career.  Retired USAF Chief Master Sergeant Frank Dailey, II  has found his nonprofit career to be especially rewarding.  Currently, he serves as Director of Therapeutic Programs at Heroes on the Water.

VSB: How did you decide to give the nonprofit sector a try? 

Dailey: When I retired from the military, I was not in a hurry to jump right back into business world, I had a short stint as a contractor and realized it was not my cup of tea.

Part of my personal resiliency was to volunteer with a charity, Heroes on the Water, a 501(c)3 that takes wounded, injured and recently returning warriors kayak fishing as a part of their repatriation and resiliency. I was used to analyzing processes and looking for improvements, so I wrote a paper and sent it to the president of the charity. In it, I challenged him to be proactive and directly engage returning active duty members with the tools they would need to reduce some of the stress.  This paper caught the eye of the senior leaders on the Board and the President and CEO.  Within a few weeks, I was interviewed and put on the team. From a hiring perspective, I will warn everyone that the nonprofit community often moves slower than even the military in bringing someone on board.

VSB: Were you concerned about the likelihood of a lower salary than one might gain in the private sector?

Dailey: I was lucky enough to have strong investments coupled with a full military and medical retirement that provided a combined salary better than what I earned on active duty.  It is always a dream to have a job that had me fishing and working with our nation’s best.  It was an easy positive choice for my family and my life.  My family was happy with the person that emerged from the uniform.  I was told by one of the my trusted mentors that you will often have three to four career changes before you find the right one.  Working with a charity introduces you to a broad range of leadership roles that will build your experience.

VSB: How has this experience eased your transition from a military career into civilian life?

Dailey: By doing something I truly loved and feeding my servant’s heart, it made me stronger and a better advocate for Veterans and the community.  I had a lot of stress lifted off my shoulders because I was providing for my family.  My sense of pride in what we are achieving is a reward you cannot measure; it made rising at 4 am to get on the flats with the guys, just a day in the office.  Our impromptu business meetings are held on the water.  Most importantly, I am able to help other people who have been through something few would ever comprehend and am able to help them on their journey all the way home!

One thing I find in my work is that most of us joined to be a part of something bigger than ourselves, by doing something that feeds that desire to serve.  We can achieve a true sense of who we are beyond the uniform.

VSB: What advice would you offer to those currently preparing for separation from military service?

Dailey: If you are able to accurately predict your income and retirement and manage your debts and needs, taking time for a year of service may be the best thing that you can ever do.  Doing this will allow you to adjust your priorities, put a price on quality of life, give you a chance to focus on the wounds you have endured during your time in the military and focus on service.

One thing I find in my work is that most of us joined to be a part of something bigger than ourselves, by doing something that feeds that desire to serve.  We can achieve a true sense of who we are beyond the uniform.  It also introduces you to a host of different experiences.  In January 2014, the President and CEO and I visited 21 members of the Congress and Senate.  We briefed multiple General Officers and titans of industry at the Pentagon, Boeing and the HQ Veteran’s Administration.  Never underestimate the impact and potential of time in the nonprofit sector as the springboard to your next career.

Heroes on the Water (www.heroesonthewater.org) is a nonprofit organization that serves our nation’s warriors by providing healing and rehabilitating kayaking and fishing outings that are physically and mentally therapeutic through a nationwide community of volunteers and donors.

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