Live from Music Row, Monday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed co-founder and president of the American Freedom Foundation, Ted Hacker in studio to talk about helping veterans’ job network and find meaningful work after their military career is over.
Leahy: In studio with us, Ted Hacker, co-founder and president of American Freedom Foundation. There’s an event that they’re sponsoring Thursday and Friday, April 27th and 28th at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center at the Ryman Ballroom.
It’s for veterans transitioning service members and military families looking for a job. If you want to network with some veteran-friendly companies that are hiring, you should go. It seems like really a great event Ted. Thanks so much for doing that.
Hacker: Ah, thank you so much, Michael Patrick. It’s great to be here with you today.
Leahy: It was funny because you know we’re right on Music Row and so when I go to bring you up for the show during the break you say, I’ve been here on this Music Row. I spent 36 years working here.
Leahy: Isn’t it otherworldly to come back onto Music Row after 15 years?
Hacker: 15 years.
Leahy: Yes. 16 years you’ve been doing the. The American Freedom Foundation to help Veterans.
Hacker: Boy, Music Row has sure changed a lot, I’ll tell you that.
Leahy: What are the biggest changes that you note here on Music Row?
Hacker: The high rises. We never had those back in the day.
Leahy: You’d have two or three-story houses, right? A little more neighborhoody feel, I suppose you could say.
Leahy: But you have a calling here to help veterans. American Freedom foundation.org. You’ve got this event coming up at the Gaylord on April 27th and 28th. That’s Thursday and Friday later this month. Are you focused mainly on helping veterans find employment? Is that your main purpose?
Hacker: Yes, it is. We’re really excited about this event, it’s called Your Next Mission, which is a program initiative of the American Freedom Foundation. And that program is to help with the transition from military to civilian life, which includes finding meaningful jobs.
Leahy: I think you said a keyword there. Meaningful.
Leahy: Because I see your eyes glint when you say meaningful veterans are on a mission, aren’t they?
Leahy: To protect our country and it’s a very high calling. And when they get out, do they sometimes have difficulty saying okay, I was protecting our country and now the job I can get is the kind of job I could have gotten out of high school or something like that. Is there some of that going on?
Hacker: There is and we bring in companies that have really great jobs. In this event particularly, we have about 40 companies that will be there. All kinds like Ericsson, Si Defense, and HCA Healthcare.
There are so many great companies that’ll be there and they all have great jobs and they’re there to hire veterans. They’re very veteran-friendly companies. And Your Next Mission is the kind of event that has an impact on our veterans and families.
Leahy: But it, let’s say veterans leaving or they served their country well, do some of them spend a period of time saying gosh, what do I do now?
Hacker: Absolutely. That is the biggest, I think, obstacle if you will. Maybe obstacle is not the right word, but they’re entering a whole new environment. They’re trying to navigate waters that they’ve never understood or been a part of their whole life.
And so that’s why there are organizations like ours and Operation Stand Down Tennessee, another great nonprofit here that partners with us on this event that tries to help them navigate those waters because it’s a very dark frontier for them.
Leahy: What’s the darkest part of that frontier for them?
Hacker: Just not knowing. They’ve been in an environment with their buddies in a family, in a community, and all of a sudden they’re all by the.
Leahy: That’s part of it, right?
Hacker: That’s the big part.
Leahy: And really I guess the old saying is that I think several writers have written that when soldiers are fighting in a war, they’re fighting more for their buddy that’s right next to them that’s first in line.
Leahy: And they’re obviously fighting for the country, but they’re fighting for their buddies alongside them. And that group cohesion which they have.
Hacker: Yes, exactly.
Leahy: And if your life is at risk and you know that you’re both sharing that’s going to intensify that cohesion. They leave the military and they just don’t have that kind of dig, togetherness,
Hacker: Exactly. And that’s where it becomes very difficult for them. And we’re here to help with that. And we bring them together and we network. We have an event here in Nashville called #LinkedInMusicCity, where we network the entire Middle Tennessee veterans community once a quarter to just try to help them meet people, to know that there are people out there that care for them and that want to help them.
Leahy: Do some do some veterans just continue to struggle when they get out?
Hacker: They do. And I think one of the things that we want to help with is finding that consistency for them. Retention in the job is another problem. So we want to make sure that they’re doing whatever they can to prepare themselves for a long-term career.
Leahy: So they can thrive and flourish. And that’s the key. And I think it’s, it, the fact that like most business stuff, I don’t know if the right word is mundane, it’s not it, yes, it’s important too. I don’t know, let’s say you work at a grocery store, getting food to people, that’s important stuff.
But the day-to-day is very mundane. You’re not saving the life of your buddy. Does that regularity that normalness, that lack of adrenaline in your work, is that a problem that these guys or that veterans, men, and women face?
Hacker: Yes, I think it is. I think just trying to find that next chapter in their life and trying to define it and make it work for them in the long term. Because most people that serve for 20 years, they’re still very young in their age and they still have another whole career in front of them. So what is that career? What is it that they wanna do?
Leahy: Let’s talk about that. 20 years is the magic number, right?
Hacker: That’s retirement, but the majority of people don’t serve that long.
Leahy: Okay. This is where I’m getting at. So if you serve 20 years, you have a guaranteed pension, right?
Leahy: But the majority don’t serve that. That is, I think, a significant point. Typically most veterans that you work with, how long have they served?
Hacker: I think four to eight years. And I may be off a little bit on that, but I think that’s probably a good average.
Leahy: And do they not have a pension after 48 years? When does the pension kick in?
Hacker: 20 years.
Listen to today’s show highlights, including this interview:
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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Photo “Ted Hacker” by Ted Hacker. Background Photo “Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center” by Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center.