Rob o’neill co-founded your grateful nation, a nonprofit organization that helps special operations vets transition from military service to corporate america
O’Neill, 41, was a member of SEAL Team 6 which carried out the May 2, 2011, raid on the 9/11 terrorist mastermind’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, but decided to leave the Navy months later.
Now – having revealed he killed bin Laden – he is one of America’s best-known heroes, with a new mission: getting his Special Forces comrades the jobs they deserve when they leave the service of their nation.
Your Grateful Nation (YGN) was established as a government-recognized, non-profit organization in 2014 to help special operations veterans, like O’Neill, the transition from military service to corporate America.
The program is a carefully mapped-out process, which takes place over several months, and matches the right candidates with companies using their specific set of highly-desirable skills.O’Neill is a co-founder of YGN and sits on the board of directors. The idea for the organization came during a dinner party in Washington DC held to honor SEAL Team 6 following the bin Laden raid.
Rob Clapper, a retired Army Major, and now YGN’s executive director, was reunited with O’Neill at the party after they had met on a joint mission to Afghanistan.
‘A mix of industry and military people attended,’ Clapper told DailyMail.com.
‘During the meal, one of the corporate folks asked the SEALs: “You conducted one of the most historic military operations of modern day, but what do you do now?”
‘The look that went around the table is hard to describe but it conveyed the sense that none of these heroes knew what the next chapter in their lives was going to be.’
Clapper added: ‘Rob told me the struggles he was going through and they were similar to the struggles I had years earlier during my own transition from military to civilian life. We both wanted to make an impact and pay it forward to help our brothers and sisters.’
O’Neill, who is one of the most highly-decorated combat veterans of our time with 52 honors, has been open about the struggles he faced on leaving the military.He said: ‘In order to get benefits and a pension you must serve 20 years in the military. It took me a year to decide to leave and it was a difficult decision.
‘It had a lot to do with the high-profile missions and the helicopter being shot down [the 2011 Chinook crash in Afghanistan which killed 38 servicemen, including 22 Navy SEALs, many of whom were close to O’Neill].
‘I had these skills that I had learned in the Navy – stress management, team-building, problem-solving and loyalty. But I didn’t know what I was capable of. I thought I might end up selling T-shirts.’
There is limited support for those leaving the Armed Forces, O’Neill said, and he, like many others, found it to be a stressful, bewildering time.
‘On the day I left the Navy, I called and asked what the grace period was for my kids’ health insurance. I was told it ended at midnight.
This is why it’s so important to help with the transition.’
‘Some vets will sit in a dark room, self-medicate and feel there’s no hope. It’s heart-breaking. I believe to help veterans, you need to get vets with other vets, those who have similar stories.O’Neill also noted that there are an estimated 20 suicides per day in the veteran community.
‘For a lot of special operators, all they know is combat. They would rather go to combat than fill out a resume – because a resume is foreign to them.’
Companies who are partnered with YGN include SunTrust bank, Gryphon Technologies, Motus and Fox Sports. Funding comes from a wide range of companies and other non-profits along with individual donors.
A typical YGN recruit is 34 and comes from any of the top-tier of veterans, among them Navy SEALs and Green Berets. However, not all of YGN’s success stories fit this demographic – others have spent many decades serving their country.
Over the past three years, YGN has fundraised around $2.8million, in part from events such as black-tie galas and panel discussions with O’Neill and fellow veteran, Medal of Honor recipient, Dakota Meyers.
Clapper said: ‘By 2021, our aim is to be able to support between 150 and 200 special operations veterans a year.’
YGN’s success has been in pinpointing the areas where highly-trained veterans struggle when re-entering civilian life. Clapper said: ‘One of the biggest problems for these veterans is a loss of identity. They’ve gone from being the elite of the elite to one of the masses applying for jobs online.
‘The second problem is skill translation and the third is that they are looking for careers which will stabilize their home lives.
‘They want to spend more time with their families, coach their kids’ soccer games and be home for dinner at least a couple of times a week. If we do our job well, we end up strengthening each one of their families.’
YGN works individually with each veteran, using a specialized insight assessment created by leadership development advisors, the Atlantic Leadership Group, which typically works with executives from Fortune 500 companies.
‘It’s not broad brushstrokes. We ask the veteran what do they want to do and where they want to live,’ Clapper said.
‘The assessment looks at their skills, personal interests and ends up with a detailed profile of each person. They are highly educated and highly trained. Their military skills are desired by the private sector, they are just called something different.’
YGN then gives the veteran an opportunity to meet up with and work-shadow an employee doing a job they could see themselves doing. ‘The final phase is preparing to enter the job market – crafting resumes, learning how to handle the interview process and salary negotiations,’ Clapper said.
‘We stay in touch with them every month after they get the job to help with any issues. We also see that as an opportunity to grow our networks too.’
The benefits are a two-way street.
‘Veterans can innately build a winning team,’ Clapper said. ‘It’s why they’re only going to make a company better and strength its bottom line.’
The US Special Forces were recently highlighted after four Special Forces fighting in Niger were killed after they were ambushed by 50 ISIS terrorists earlier this month.
Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson, Sgt. La David Johnson and Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright died while conducting a mission on October 4.