The panelists came from starkly different backgrounds.
One grew up in a trailer park with a single parent. Another enjoyed an upper middle-class upbringing as the child of a college professor and chemist. The third joined the army so he could “blow stuff up.”
Yet it was their military service and desire to help other veterans make a successful transition to the civilian world that united the three speakers at the second annual St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce veterans luncheon last week. Organized by the chamber’s Ponte Vedra Beach Division, the Nov. 9 luncheon at The Plantation clubhouse gave local business and community leaders an opportunity to learn about opportunities to hire veterans and how the skills military men and women develop make them responsible, valuable contributors in the workplace.
“The Marine Corps built an exceptional level of confidence in me,” said Joe Padlo, who spent 11 years in the military before founding a commercial cleaning business that provides employment opportunities for other veterans. “When I make a decision, I’m going to stick to that decision and I’m going to run with it.”
John Fails said when he joined the military, he saw service as a way to make money that he could send home to his struggling family. “I was just thrilled to have three square meals a day,” he said. “So for me, (enlisting) was about making my own path and helping to make a path for my family.”
Serving in the military taught him how to analyze situations and problems, Fails said – skills he now uses as executive director of Bunker Labs Jacksonville, a nonprofit that helps veterans start and grown their own businesses.
Each of the veteran panelists described how serving in the military changed them as individuals and made them the people they are today.
“Remember the shy kid in school? That was me,” SFC Michael Kube said. “Becoming a drill sergeant was the last thing I ever imagined I would do.”
Doing so, however, helped him develop leadership skills while also imparting those skills to others.“Seeing parents’ expressions when they would see how much their sons had grown up was a rewarding experience,” said Kube, who has also started his own business. “The army gave me the opportunity to help other people change their lives.”