Veterans Day 2010: Disabled Military Veterans Learn Entrepreneurship Skills

Syracuse University program teaches military vets how to build small businesses.

ByABC News
November 11, 2010, 3:11 PM

Nov. 11, 2010— -- A training program is helping to turn battle-scarred American heroes into self-supporting entrepreneurs.

As a proud Marine, John Raftery took part in the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. He returned home physically intact but psychologically damaged.

"It was a very dark period in my life," Raftery recalled.

Suffering from PTSD and working as an assistant accountant in Dallas, Raftery found it hard to adjust from the battlefield.

"I think the difficult thing was how do I take military experience and transfer that experience into the corporate world," he said.

Raftery heard about a business program at Syracuse University for people like himself -- disabled veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. He applied and was accepted.

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"It was just very exciting to me, the thought of entrepreneurship," Raftery said.

The program is called the Entrepreneurship Boot Camp for Veterans With Disabilities, or EBV, and it's the brainchild of Mike Haynie, a former Air Force officer who's now a business professor at Syracuse University.

EBV's aim is to teach disabled veterans not how to get a job, but how to start their own small businesses.

"A bomb blast or a gunshot has changed their lives forever, so it becomes a challenge for them to assume that traditional 9-to-5 job," Haynie said. "If they can craft a vocation for themselves through self-employment, they can craft that vocation in a way that allows them to accommodate some of those challenges."

More than 300 wounded veterans have been through the EBV program, and about half have their own businesses up and running. Some of the veterans are restaurant owners, and there's at least one filmmaker.

Raftery now owns a construction company that's on track to bring in $3 million a year.

"There's still a piece of you that is missing when you leave service," Raftery said. "Entrepreneurship is the final piece for me in making the 100 percent transition."