Marine Corps veteran Wesley Olivo joined the military because of his appreciation for his own brother's service. "My brother, he was a huge role model in my life," he said when I met up with him at his home in Chicago.
But after boot camp, the reality of his decision set it, and he wondered, "What was I thinking?"
Olivo, 25, encountered what he calls a "huge culture shock" when he arrived in Iraq for the first of his two tours, citing the overwhelming lack of infrastructure in the country. The contrast to his world at home was compounded when, one month into his service, he witnessed a vehicle carrying an improvised explosive device crash into an Iraqi police station, killing the Iraqi police chief.
"This is going to be a tough seven month," he thought to himself.
But when I asked him whether he had any regrets about joining the Marines and heading off to war (the infantryman retired after four years as a corporal), his response was telling. "I can't say that I do," he said. "I've developed so much with it: attention to detail, becoming more organized. The one regret I have was that I missed the birth of my daughter."
Olivo's daughter, Cecilia, is now 4, and he has safely returned from the war in Iraq to watch her grow up, while he builds a civilian life for himself and his family.
He is now working full-time toward a degree in accounting at Robert Morris University in Chicago, under the GI Bill, which provides financial assistance for education to servicemen and servicewomen. He has a 3.5 GPA
Olivo is also aware of time that he needs to spend outside the classroom to succeed in business. "The networking, or those connections, that is not covered under the GI Bill, so that is on me," he said.
As part of our Standing Up For Heroes program, we have paired Olivo with mentor and financial expert Mellody Hobson. Hobson is the president of Ariel Investments and sits on the board of a number of business organizations.
Olivo said he is looking for a mentor who is blunt, one who will "give it to me straight," and someone who will tell him what he needs to do to succeed.