GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A local business owner is working to help other veterans through some of the struggles he faced.
Before he was a businessman he served in the U.S. Air Force, flying 11 combat missions during Operation Desert Storm as a B-52 navigator.
“Surprisingly, after I came out, I had nightmares for about six months,” he said. “Then they went away just as mysteriously as they started, but I still struggled with things like depression and irritability.”
Sixteen years later, those nightmares returned, he said.
As he was struggling, he turned to Veterans Affairs for help and started to do much better through treatments there.
He has since used that experience to help other veterans who are struggling, starting a nonprofit called the Patriot Promise Foundation and writing a book, “From Service to Success.” In the book, he talks about some of his struggles, the stories of other veterans and how to overcome adversity.
“I tried to lay out a road map for how veterans can really take their lives from just survival to really fulfilling and finding their greatest purpose in life,” he said.
“From Service to Success” launched this spring, and Taylor has already donated thousands of copies to veterans.
He said he has already heard from other veterans who the book has helped.
“One of the gentlemen I met was a Vietnam veteran who was still struggling decades later,” he said. “As he read through the book, he found some really helpful information in it. And so it really gave me a really good feeling and confidence that that I had identified a gap in how veterans were getting help.”
Taylor also met a couple whose son served in Afghanistan and is now “struggling tremendously,” he said. The couple is in family counseling trying to help their son, and told Taylor they wished the book had been available years earlier.
“Another one was a gentleman that has been going into the VA, read the book and told the counselor that he had — because of the book — had decided to make changes in his life,” Taylor said. “It’s very emotional for me to hear that feedback, but it’s very rewarding at the same time.”
He said his nonprofit also tries to fill a gap in treatment for veterans, providing mental health support and a certificate program to help veterans reach their potential.
As a business owner over the past two decades, he has provided help and guidance to the veterans he has met in the field or while they were looking for work, he said. He believes veterans have the “raw materials” to find success in business.
“They have leadership skills, they know how to work within a team. Many times in our military experience, we have to use creativity and you be very resourceful in how we overcome adversity. And we’re very dedicated to completing our mission and doing the right thing. So we have as a as a group, we have the raw materials to do just about anything that’s asked of us,” Taylor said.
His advice to veterans looking to start their own business is to be resilient and persistent.
“You have to be ready to face challenges work as part of a team, find a good management team to work with you. Don’t try and go it alone. Don’t try and solve all the problems on your own. Reach out to other people,” he said, adding there are many resources for veteran business owners.
He also urged veterans struggling with mental health issues not to go it alone.
“Everything we did in the military was as part of a team. There’s very, very few things that we do in the military as an individual and so when we come home, we can’t just soldier through,” he said. “It’s not always easy, but go to the VA and start to get the help that you need to really find a good way of coping and to find your path in life that can lead to great success.”
One of the most critical aspects is sleep, Taylor said, adding “all the psychologists and psychiatrists agree that sleep is the top priority for helping veterans achieve a good state of mental health.”
When he speaks with veterans, Taylor said he tells them to find something bigger than themselves to work for.
“You’re going to find that you have more success than if you’re doing it for your own selfish reasons,” he said.
It’s advice he applied to his own life. He views it as his responsibility to take care of all of his employees and their families, as well as the veterans he meets.
“I try and look for things that are beyond my own interest,” he said. “Where can I help other people? … Where can I make a difference and leave a legacy that’s about service above self?”
To find out more about the Patriot Promise Foundation or to donate, go to patriotpromise.org.