When I was 17, I thought I had all the answers. I remember when a Marine recruiter came to my high school and asked what I was going to do when I graduated. I confidently told him I was going to play football. He ended our brief conversation by saying I could never make it as a Marine.
Wow, how those words changed my life.
My name is Dakota Meyer and I'm a United States Marine.
During my time with the United States Marine Corps I was deployed to Iraq as a sniper and later served in Afghanistan. I returned home with the pride of having served my country to the best of my ability and later received the Medal of Honor from President Obama.
It's not easy coming home from war. I faced the same challenges that many returning veterans face. When I came back to Kentucky, I wondered why any employer would have a need for a Marine sniper. But then I thought about the other skills I bring to the table -- teamwork, accountability, managing personnel in challenging circumstances, advanced technical skills. These are traits no one teaches better than our military. They are also traits that often get lost in translation by both veterans and recruiters.
When I got the call from President Obama in 2011 telling me I was being awarded the Medal of Honor due to my actions in battle on September 8, 2009, I told him I didn't want it. I felt like I didn't deserve the military's highest award for valor for a mission I felt was a failure. But the president told me something that I've never forgotten. He said the award was bigger than me. I realized he was right. If I could take this award and use it to make a difference, then that was what I would do. It's what I wanted to do.
Remembering President Obama's words, I knew there was an opportunity for me to help the men and women who are going through the same struggles I faced when I came home.
I have now teamed up with Hiring Our Heroes to do just that. Hiring Our Heroes is hosting job fairs for veterans and military spouses nationwide and more than 14,000 have already found jobs through the program. It has become the perfect opportunity for me to use my experience to help veterans. I am attending hiring fairs across the country and sharing my story with the hope of helping other veterans better articulate the assets they bring to the table.
The key for our success when we transition into the civilian workforce is to be able to brand ourselves. We need to develop that 90-second elevator pitch that sells us to an employer. That is why I'm excited to be working on the Personal Branding Initiative, which is addressing exactly that. We are helping veterans and transitioning service members take the skills and experience we gained in the military and translating them into language that fits what businesses of all sizes are looking for.
We have more exciting things on the horizon as part of this initiative and I look forward to sharing these great tools in the months ahead.
I firmly believe that when an employer takes a chance on a veteran, they won't be disappointed. Instead, they'll ask how they can hire more. And with that mentality, we can truly make a difference in the employment issues facing our nation's heroes.