The Construction Veteran Podcast

Molding Lives: Brad Borders' Strategies for Compassionate Veteran Care

August 20, 2023 The Construction Veteran Episode 23
The Construction Veteran Podcast
Molding Lives: Brad Borders' Strategies for Compassionate Veteran Care
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Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Picture a young man with a passion for service, held back by past mistakes, and then moved to action by the devastating events of 9/11. Meet Brad Borders, an aspirational youth who beat the odds to become a respected officer in the Chaplain Corps and a beacon of hope for transitioning veterans. Brad's captivating journey encompasses the highs and lows of military service, the unparalleled friendships formed, and the profound transformation it sparked within him.

Against a backdrop of military service and an enduring commitment to the welfare of his comrades, Brad unravels the unique challenges that accompany the role of a military chaplain. His candid discussion about compassion fatigue is enlightening, as he shares his strategy for managing it—disconnecting and prioritizing self-care. From astutely navigating delicate conversations to persevering in adversity, Brad's insights into the invaluable skill set of veterans are truly thought-provoking.

Transitioning from military to civilian life is no small feat—a fact that Brad knows all too well. His inspiring work with organizations like Purple Heart Homes and Bronze Star Homes illuminates ways in which veteran lives can be improved through safety and accessibility renovations. With an ambitious goal of eradicating veteran homelessness, Brad's commitment to manufacturing tiny homes for veterans in need is genuinely heartening. Moreover, his insights into the process of transitioning from military to construction leadership provide an invaluable resource for others on a similar path. So, join us for this enlightening conversation, as Brad Borders reminds us of the power of service, the significance of community, and the transformative potential of lending a helping hand.

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Speaker 1:

There is a bright future in housing because people need. We need to have a space where, you know, a young couple that's 25, 26 years old can afford to buy a home. This is the Construction Veteran Podcast, connecting and celebrating veterans in construction. Now here's your host, scott Friend.

Speaker 2:

Welcome back to the Construction Veteran Podcast. I'm Scott Friend Guys. I'm excited to bring to you a friend of mine today. Brad Borders, a US Army Reserve chaplain and also, in his civilian career, serves our nation's veterans in helping them have accessible homes. Let's dig into it, hey, brad. How's it going, man?

Speaker 1:

Oh, I'm good brother, how are you?

Speaker 2:

It's really good. It's really good to chat with you again, man. It's been a while it has been so Brad and I know each other, interestingly enough through another vet, so we hadn't had the honor of meeting one another in person, but we've known each other for probably three, four years now, I would imagine someone there. So Colonel Erica Iverson is actually how we found each other.

Speaker 1:

It's crazy, yeah, erica used to go to church with us. I'm the first captain. Yeah, that's wild I'm the first captain, erica Iverson.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, now she's a full bird. That's really cool. She'll be a general someday, oh yeah for sure. So, brad, tell everybody about your service background. I mean, you got quite a story.

Speaker 1:

Well, I don't know how much of a story it is, but you know, I'm just kind of one of those guys that was just a regular dude living here in North Carolina, framing houses and pastoring at a small local church, and then this event in 9-11 happened. I was raised in a home where my dad was a Navy veteran and was really amazed that one time that my dad had we went down to Charleston and he took us on to the Navy base when I was like eight years old and he had an ID and I thought he was the most important human being in the world and so I thought my dad was like the president because he had served Navy right. And you know, I always dreamed of joining the military and had aspirations to do so, made some poor choices when I was in my teenage and college years which prohibited me from doing that, and when I wanted to I went to the Marine Corps recruiting station to try to sign up for OCS in about 1989, somewhere around there, and they said have you ever had any encounters with law enforcement officials? And I said yeah, a couple. We said no thanks, you know, go do something else great with your life and be a great American. So I did.

Speaker 1:

But then, you know, over a decade later, after being married and having kids, 9-11 happened and I found myself in a place where I couldn't sleep at night because I was watching the TV and there were kids kids, as I call them, 18-19 year old kids, you know, suitin' up, putting uniforms on to go over to the Middle East, and, you know, respond to this thing that had happened to our country. And so I was like, you know, I can do something. At a time I was 37 years old, and so I went to a recruiting station, wanted to sign up to be an infantry dude, and they were like you're too old, because they cut off with 36 at the time, in 2002, one two-ish time frame. And they were like can you do anything else? And I was like, well, I'm a pastor. And they were like you got a master's degree? And I was like, yeah. And you know, they were like, yeah, you could be a chaplain. And I was like I mean like Father Mulcahy? And they were like, yeah, I like that.

Speaker 2:

That is always the example.

Speaker 1:

I love that Right, and I was like, yeah, I could do that. I could. For those that don't know, father Mulcahy was a character on the show match back in the 70s, and so, anyhow, man ended up going through this long process of, I guess, going through my medical records for all the sports injuries that I'd had when I was in high school and college, and then after college, and then my subdued criminal history, if you will, and so I'd have a moral waiver to come in saying that, yeah, I used to do that stuff but I'm no longer doing that. And, anyhow, 2004, summer of 2004, I found myself in an officer basic course as a United States Army chaplain, and so that's been over 19 years ago now and I'm getting ready to retire. So, yeah, that's kind of how I entered into the portal, so to speak. I love it.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, man, kudos to you for going back again a decade later and still feeling that call. That's cool, and that's quite a call to go into the chaplain corps for sure, because you're called multiple times by the Lord and by the service. So you had a very unique opportunity to and you get as deep into it as you want, but you've served with some pretty neat units that probably people don't realize. Chaplains get that opportunity to. You want to go into that a little bit.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I mean yeah. My kids have always asked me dad, did you do cool stuff in the Army? And I was like, nah, I didn't really do cool stuff, but I got to hang out with some cool people. And so when I was in Iraq in 2009, I got an email from an old buddy and said hey, what are you?

Speaker 1:

doing when you get home from Iraq and consequently I've been a reservist my whole career. I didn't want to have, I didn't want to move around the United States with my family. I wanted my family to be rooted into our community, where you know grandparents and aunts and uncles, that kind of thing. And so we're from North Carolina and we wanted to stay here. My wife and I both we both grew up in the same hometown, went to high school three miles apart from each other, and so we wanted to stay here. I wanted my family to be here, and so I joined the reserves, knowing at the time that it didn't matter whether you were active duty, whether you were a reservist or a National Guard. You were going to deploy, and so I knew I was going to be going somewhere. And so you know, when you're a reservist you kind of get. You get opportunities to serve. It's not like the Army kills you. You got to go do this Now.

Speaker 1:

So when I was in Iraq, called up with my civil affairs unit, which is a semi, I would say sort of a special operations unit not really not really at the at the time of reserve special reserve civil affairs unit was more of a adjunct to the special operations community and so, but I had a buddy of mine call that I knew from previous years said, hey, what are you doing when you get home? My rocker got an opportunity for you. Would you like to come work in the special forces community? And it was like, yeah, I don't really know anything about that. I watched the Green Berets, you know with John Wayne, you know on the back porch with my dad back in 1972 on a black and white TV. But I'm not, you know, I'm not like an aggressive, you know cool guy, you know door kicking, red daughter on the forehead, kind of dude. And it was like, yeah, we're not really looking for that, we're looking for somebody that really cares about other human beings. And so I was like, yeah, I'll interview. So I had to go.

Speaker 1:

When I came home on or an hour from Iraq, I had to go interview. And after I interviewed, went through this screening process, they sent me a formal invitation and anyhow, I ended up. I ended up working there and so for from like 2010 to really the 2017, I stayed on orders working at third special forces group at what is now called Fort Liberty, but at the time it was Fort Bragg and pretty much everybody still calls it Fort Bragg, and so, yeah, it was an incredible opportunity. I have now, after spending that many years there, the best friend of my life. I got to experience a lot of, a lot of really high moments and watching people perform at an extremely man mid, just a level of performance that I'd never seen before, people that are so competent at their job. And then I think you couple that with the Lowe's that comes along with that, with the being tip of the spear type of organization that third group was, which was kind of the blue pale workhorse of the Afghanistan world and special operations side.

Speaker 1:

A lot of casualties, a lot of I had to fish, a lot of funerals I had to deliver, deliver a lot of you know, death notifications to you know young ladies that had, you know, watched their husband go off to war and then we're hoping for them to come home and then they didn't and they didn't come home, and so a lot of derivative stress, if you will right. People don't recognize sometimes how derivative stress, vicarious stress, or the stress that other people are going through as a caregiver, you don't, you don't sometimes recognize, you don't realize the cumulative effect of that as you, as you walk through years and years of stress and trauma and and death and destruction, and and you know, and then the effects of all that, and then the dysfunction that comes home after people are self-medicating and and then they ruin their careers, and then you know it's just a downward spiral for a lot of people, and then it's a chaplain. You're just, you're just in the know on all of that stuff and it can be, can be quite the. I think I remember this is I drove off Fort Bragg in 2017 and realized that I wasn't going to get any more phone calls in the middle of the night and and I was so thankful for that but there was also a part of me that that was like I'm reluctant to turn this over to someone else at the same time, and so I realized I needed a break from it and needed to get out of it, because he was having psychological, emotional, spiritual, physical toll on me, and I'm thankful I did leave when I did, and but also, too, on the other side of that, I wouldn't trade those years for any amount of money, because the person that I am today is been formed by that experience and the relationships that I have are are quite profound and lifelong, and a lot of the guys that I've served with are all retired now and we're all like, in fact we did.

Speaker 1:

My wife just got a text message from my buddy, my buddy's wife, who he's like a couple years from retiring at 30 years, and he's like we found this piece of property up in the mountains. It's not far from where you guys are right, and we're all trying to plan out where we're going to be, you know, as we, as we age into the, into the twilight years, you know. So it's good to have those is really deep friendships that are only forged through adversity and not forged through zoom meetings and and cursory relationships in the business realm. Right, it's only through difficulty and and and fire that that people really come together and some super grateful for that stuff for sure.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, that's awesome. I'm glad you you mentioned that too. Just the I think a lot of people that haven't served may not understand that the most. I would say the most related industry might be law enforcement, public servants of any kind that go through that. So, as you're talking about this stuff, there's like this dichotomy, you know, and from my little experience being in the chaplain corps, I I've told folks hey, I think chaplains have the best and the worst job in the service because you get to be there With these people's highs, but you also have to be there, but you have to stay strong during a lot of the lows.

Speaker 2:

Oh for sure for sure I have a.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, you gotta be the respect. You gotta be the guy.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, you gotta be the guy when when, when everything's coming apart at the seams, you can't. You know, you got to be, you got to be, you got to have clarity of thought and and know what the right thing to do is be to be able to advise senior Officers and senior enlisted. I was like, you know, like a sir or a star major. This is, this is a good course of action here, or this is a bad course of action, yeah, and so yeah, which is the danger? That's a very dangerous place because you tend to compartmentalize, you tend to cut yourself off from emotions, and so things like compassion fatigue can really drift into the life of a chaplain, just like it does with doctors and nurses, and you know you probably into emergency room, where you know you're freaking injured, you know, and you're like, you're like hey, you know, and the nurse is like looking at you and you're like You're like, okay, you know, you're just like you don't even give a crap about me, right, what is going on? I'm hurt, I'm in pain here, my bone is sticking out of my leg, right, you know?

Speaker 1:

And and it's because of compassion fatigue, because you know first responders see that stuff every single day it's a danger in any caregiver profession, compassion fatigue, absolutely, and it but it. The way you avoid it is by being aware that it can and does happen to people, and segmenting time for your life to reflect and and and be. You know, have mindful times and prayer and you know, just to remain connected to something outside of what you do Is really critical. You know some people like, like myself, I like to go like when I go out and ride my bike 40 or 50 miles, I Become disconnected from from all of that. Right, because you all you gotta do is focus on the road in front of you and you know how much effort you needed to put in to get up the next hill and it's a really good outlet, you know, for stuff like that.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, what I what I appreciate you doing, brad, too is you haven't once mentioned. You know I had to do this type of spreadsheet. I had to do this type of meeting. I'll every skill that you've just talked about is all these soft skills that really carry over into the workforce and I think For companies that might be listening to higher vets, is that that's the true value that a lot of veterans bring, is that how to stick it out during adversity or, like you said, having these hard conversations, having to stay strong and stressful times, and I'm sure you know some of the administrative stuff probably carried over as well, but that's our strength.

Speaker 1:

So I want to read. Yeah, let me take a shift here.

Speaker 2:

A little bit. Yeah, go ahead.

Speaker 1:

Good, yeah, go ahead. No, I agree. I agree with that. I think when you, when, when companies hire veterans, they're getting people to understand command structure. They, they understand the organizational charts, they, they. But they also understand personal responsibility.

Speaker 1:

It's the great thing about our military versus maybe some other militaries around the world that we we Delegate leadership to the lowest level so that, like the e4, who has, has some command authority, versus like a full bird colonel, like micro managing an entire, you know, brigade of 3000 people, you have leadership at the lowest level.

Speaker 1:

Which is incredibly important For a thriving business is to have leaders at the lowest level, people that are capable of making decisions, leaders that understand the fact that their subordinates have the freedom to use the, the gifts that God has given them, their cognitive gifts, their ability to make decisions in a crisis. All of those things are really critically important in the military and it's critically important for a thriving business. It's no good if the executive director, the CEO, has got a freaking be. You know micro manage and the day-to-day efforts on the manufacturing floor right, you know it just doesn't work. And you know army veterans, navy veterans, military veterans in the US they understand that concept. Is that I have a responsibility, even at the lowest level, to be the best version of myself and improve the the, the abilities of the people around me.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, for sure. So I recently did an episode With the guy who's a Marine Corvette and I have to hand it to the Marines that they I mean man, even if you're a Lance Corporal like they teach these guys from a very low rank Responsibility and leadership and how to lead others and those are your Marines. I love that and I think that carries over very well for them in the business world also, for sure. So I'm gonna take a shift here real quick. Let's talk about what you're doing now. I mean, I know you're still. You have a few drill weekends left as of this recording, so we're talking a few months out From your retirement but you've been doing something else pretty neat for quite a while.

Speaker 2:

What do you do? Why did I have you on it? Related to the construction industry.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, so I work at an organization called purple heart homes, who are 515 5013 C, non-profit, out of national headquarters, out of here, out of statesville, north Carolina, but we're a national nonprofit and our primary mission is to improve the lives of veterans, one home at a time, through safety and accessibility renovations and now through the manufacture of tiny homes. And so I've been with the organization for six years. I started as a project manager, became the construction director, did chapter development and management and now and then Outreach and donor relationships, now as the executive vice president. And so it's an amazing organization that was founded by two National Guard guys from here in North Carolina. They got blown up in Iraq in 2004 Dale Beatty and John Galena.

Speaker 1:

Dale lost both of his legs in that incident, was spent a year and a half at Walter Reed. John was Severely injured but was able to return to duty after a few weeks, finished his tour, came back home. Dale was not home from Walter Reed at the time Dale got back, I mean, and when John got back home from Iraq and then, when Dale finally did get back home in in 2000, late 2005 or 2006, realized with no legs, been the most of his day in a wheelchair, that the home he was living in was unsuitable for his injuries, and so his buddy, john, rallied around him and his family who's at the time infant kids and connected with people in our community veteran service organizations, building supply places, contractors and they just that gun, built Dale an adaptive home and throughout the process there were a lot of veterans that came out to to swing hammers and do work on that home, and most of them were Vietnam era veterans. And so Dale and John began to ask the question of well, you know, these guys came out to help Dale, who's gonna help them? And through their research they found out that there wasn't a lot. There weren't a lot of nonprofits at the time, 2005, 2006. There weren't a lot of nonprofits at all. Right, there were a few here and there when new warriors was kind of just getting started, but they're like a lot of organizations there was no one helping folks at before post 9-11.

Speaker 1:

Most of the charities in the United States and unfortunately is still the case A lot of charities don't help veterans that were before 9-11. And so the Vietnam veterans, the Korean War veterans, the World War II veterans, cold War veterans, who you know a guy who got hurt on the loading dock. There was really no nonprofit out there to help, it was simply the VA and sometimes the VA is pretty slow, even though I'm a huge fan of the VA and so they decided it was like hey, let's look in this, start a nonprofit. And so they did, and they created this nonprofit called Purple Heart Homes, simply because they had both received Purple Hearts from their time in Iraq. The first project was done in 2010 for a Vietnam veteran and a ramp was constructed on his home and as of today, I think we're like I don't know it's north of 1200 projects since 2010. Wow, now, nationwide safety, accessibility projects that have changed people's lives have given veterans that were confined to their homes. It gives them access to their homes. It gives them safety because if they built we build a ramp they don't have freedom of access, but they'll have access and freedom to get out in case of an emergency. Rooves, hvac systems, you know foundation repair I mean it is, I mean our top kind of our top five or ramps, rooves, hvac, bathrooms right Accessibility to bathrooms and door widening right, just making sure that people have access.

Speaker 1:

A few years ago, we came up with this plan to start manufacturing tiny homes we developed. We worked with an engineering firm that's also veteran owned, called Bronze Star Homes. They developed a reproducible plan for us. We have a facility here that is 13 acres of property with 70,000 square foot warehouse. That was kind of sitting as just a storage facility. We reconfigured all of that, updated everything with compressor lines to run pneumatic tools all throughout and started building tiny homes a couple years ago and have now I think we're at tiny home number 15 or 16 and our goal is to be able to produce 50 a year in the next couple years and then ultimately, with a goal of being able to produce 300 a year To try to create a solution for veteran homelessness, to provide tiny homes for, you know, veterans, villages throughout the country, municipalities that are interested in and having these type of things, or a veteran that owns his own property, like a veteran that we served in Mississippi this year that lost his entire home to an F5 tornado and went on to Mississippi back in March and he had nothing left.

Speaker 1:

He was a Korean War, 94 year old Korean War veteran that had nothing left. He had lost the home that he was born in, that he grew up in, and it was all freaking amazing, you know. It was just ripped off the face of the earth in seven weeks because we had this manufacturing facility. In less than seven weeks we were to have him in that home, living there in a brand new space, because we already had the capacity to do that, and so we're really excited about, you know, really everything that we're doing.

Speaker 1:

But on the back end of that we have, you know, six, seven hundred applications in that are unmet needs that we just either manpower wise or financially wise, we can't, we can't, we can't serve every veteran that comes in immediately.

Speaker 1:

We'd love to be able to like a, you know, a Sarn Jones, like we realize you serve in in the Mekong Delta in 1968 and you got Parkinson's disease and diabetes and you're in a wheelchair and we'd love to be able to redo your bathroom and put a ramp on your house right now.

Speaker 1:

But we got these hundred other veterans that we're working on, so you're gonna have to get in line, and so the need is, you know it's, like you know, at an all-time high, and and the other thing is that as we distance ourselves from the conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan, people are less and less remembering what it means to serve in uniform and the sacrifices that veterans go through.

Speaker 1:

And you know, if people are forgetting about Iraq and Afghanistan, they have completely forgotten about our Vietnam veterans, in our Korean War veterans, and so we want to continue to message that so that people don't forget that some young, 18 year old kid raised his right hand and said, yeah, I'll go do that without any idea about the consequence of his service or her service. And but they did that freely and willingly, because they believed in something bigger than themselves, and we're super proud to stand with all of those folks as they age, because we don't believe anybody should be left behind on the battlefield, nor should they be left behind at home yeah, man, I I have to say what you guys do part of the reason I had you on bread.

Speaker 2:

Obviously. You know you've been a mentor of mine for a while personally for a few years as I was walking through the, the chaplain court process, and you got an amazing service background. But what you guys are doing is super special. I don't think there's many, if any, other companies that are doing something like that, at least not at the scale. I know there are a lot of these offshoot small companies that do that, maybe in their local community things like widening doors, building ramps. I know we've done that at our church locally.

Speaker 2:

But, man, I, just I'm speechless for one of the few times in my life. I mean, it's just I'm in awe of what you guys have done and it's been really cool to watch, as an outsider, follow the progression of the, of the, the organization and just the sheer number of things that you guys are doing. Now it's great. I can imagine that the vetting process you know it's nice to think that all these guys are legitimate, but I can imagine it's probably a pretty tough vetting process to make sure that they are who they are or who they say they are. So these monies that are being offered, or not just being thrown down the drain for some guy that wants a ramp, you know so yeah, we do.

Speaker 1:

I mean, it's tough sometimes. You know, sometimes we have to say no, you know, I mean we have to. It's like a triage unit, you know, it'd be great, it'd be great if we could say yes to ever. Wouldn't that be awesome? You know, you had unlimited resources, which would be fantastic. But yeah, like vetting through it, I mean it's just tough saying no to people. Right, you want to help everybody. Sometimes we can't, and. But I will say this and and that if there's a World War two veteran that comes to our pipeline, they go to the front of the line.

Speaker 1:

A Korean War veteran, go to the front of the line, right, that's also we're prioritizing not to not to belittle our brothers that have served and I'm an Iraq veteran not to belittle OEF, OIF veteran. But if you were born before 1958, man, you go, you're like, you're in, right. I mean, you get first priority. Because we have a culture that doesn't value the wisdom and the sacrifices that people have made over long periods of their life. We have a culture that looks at old people as disposable and we just don't do that. We just can't do it. It's not part of our culture, that's good.

Speaker 2:

I'm really encouraged to hear that man, and I agree with you. I think times have definitely changed and it's interesting that you had mentioned, the further we get away from us pulling out of Afghanistan, to just how people are starting. I don't obviously want another war Nobody does but it is sad that people are starting to forget that and it was wild for me when I went back in to meet these I'll call them kids 17, 18 year olds that weren't alive when the towers fell. The guys that we came up under.

Speaker 1:

we're probably saying the same things, these young punks these are guys that are coming out of the Gulf War. I was over in Saudi Arabia in 1991.

Speaker 2:

I was shining my boots before you were born, son. What got you into? Maybe not purple hard home specifically, but you did mention in your intro you were talking about working, I think, on framing. You said what got you into?

Speaker 1:

construction. I grew up. My dad was a contractor and so I grew up on job sites. He'd be like, hey, boy, I need you to pick up all the broken bricks around this house and put them in this wheelbarrow. I did that when I was nine years old. I grew up with framing, hammers and pickup trucks and wood scraps and cleaning up job sites to the time when I was 14, when I started learning how to frame. Ultimately, I was in my early 20s framing out houses with my pop and then went into trim carpentry and did that for a number of years, and then I had my own re-bottling business for a while. Construction is something that I just grew up around as part of my DNA. My grandpa was a home builder and so was my dad, and it was just what we did. You had to pick up truck and if you didn't have a hammer and a tool belt, you were one of them other guys when you felt the draw to the service.

Speaker 2:

Did you ever look into like Army engineering Navy CBs, anything like that?

Speaker 1:

No, I never really did, because I was too old. The only things I would have qualified for when I went into the military was either chaplain or a doctor or a lawyer, and I would have been a terrible doctor and a worse lawyer.

Speaker 2:

It just kind of worked out that way, yeah and for those that don't know, and Brad and I were in the very, I mean, if not the same, situation. I was too old to get into any other job and that's not why I just chose the chaplain. We did feel called that and I think God had a reason for that. But these are the programs that Brad's mentioning. Are these direct commission programs? These are industry professionals that basically poof you're an officer because they've already got their professional sometimes terminal level degrees.

Speaker 2:

So, on the purple heart home side. So how did you get introduced to those folks and how did you get involved in that?

Speaker 1:

Well, I mean, yeah, it was kind of a serendipitous thing, it was actually a dual thing. I was up at Walter Reed, which is the huge army or military hospital up in Washington DC where all the catastrophic re-injured are, and had. One of my green braids was being treated for real bestoma brain cancer and I was up visiting him and when I was going to the elevator, I noticed this young guy with no legs waiting on the elevator and he had a hat on and said purple heart homes. Well, purple heart homes is based out of my hometown, in State School, north Carolina. I knew that and I knew, as a founder was Dale Beatty and John Galena that Dale Beatty had lost both of his legs, and so I knew that this kid I was looking at, this was 2017, and so I saw, with his purple heart homes hat on and I'm staying there in uniform on my chaplain chaplain-y stuff on, and I was like, hey, man, what do you know about purple heart homes? And then he was like, oh well, my name is Dale Beatty and I'm the founder, and I was like Dale, I know you, I'm from Statesville. He was like, oh my gosh, yeah, we met.

Speaker 1:

I had met him in 2010 or something at a concert or something, and and so he was like you know, and I went out and spent time with him in the room. He was there for a blood infection that had, you know, basically crippled him and he's getting treatment. He was up there for six weeks. This was 13 years post injury, right, and which many people don't think about. A lot of guys get injured overseas and they continue to get treatment for the rest of their lives because of their injuries. And so, anyhow, hung out with him and his wife and he was like, hey, well, what's your plans? And I was like, well, I'm coming off active duty in a couple months. He's like come by and see us when you get home. And so I did.

Speaker 1:

I was starting up a combat recovery course for local combat veterans and I didn't really know any in my area because I've been gone the last 12 years. And so I was like, well, if anybody know who the combat veterans are in our neck of the woods would be that guy, dale and John, over at Purple Heart Homes. It went over, chatted with them for what turned out to be about three hours, and a week later they called and were like, hey, man, we'd like for you to come work for it. And I was like what do you want me to do? And they were like oh, I don't worry about that, just come work for us. We like you, right? You know, it's kind of, it's kind of well, right what?

Speaker 2:

was going through your mind. I'm curious.

Speaker 1:

I was like, well, I mean, you know, I mean they were struggling, non-profit and you know pay was not something they could entice me with. But what they did entice me with was having mission and purpose, which is one thing that I regretted after leaving. The active side of thing was like what am I going to do now? What's going to be? You know what's going to be my mission and purpose? And boy I'm, you know, no kidding. I found that at Purple Heart Homes. Oddly enough, man, like you know, we just all kind of hit it off and we had a great work in relationship. I started off as a project manager and then went to be construction director. But like six months after I got there, dale, we were going to all get together.

Speaker 1:

On this weekend. We had a, we were all I was. We had a young life banquet and, for those that know what young life is, it's a high school ministry that reaches out to high school kids that have disenfranchised and not really connected into churches and it kind of brings the message of Jesus at a level that they can understand. We had a banquet for a young life that weekend and I had invited Dale to that. He was like, yeah, I'm not feeling very good and I was like, oh man, no problem, I'll catch up with you at work on Monday. And that Monday morning it was February 12th man he got up and got out of bed and fell over, fell over dead. This pulmonary embolism and so blood clots are one of the things that amputees have to deal with throughout their lives, and so we lost Dale in February of 2018.

Speaker 1:

And so, you know, we were kind of at a crossroads, trying to figure out where we were going, what would Dale want us to do and John John was at the time was going to resign as executive director and go run for office and Dale was going to be the executive director and he was going to lead the show. And, you know, john pulled back from all of his political aspirations and you know we had a long talk and I was like, hey, you know, dale would not want us to quit, you know, because there's a lot of other veterans that need help and we were like celebrating in 2017 that we had done 42 projects that year and it was like the greatest thing we had ever done and we thought it was awesome. And then, when Dale died, I was like what are we going to do? Like our, like a heart and soul of our organization has died, and I'll say this man, the culture and the thing that John and Dale worked so hard on prevailed.

Speaker 1:

We ended up doing more projects the year that Dale died and then now this year if you think about it, this year, in 2023, we're going to do about 185 projects this year, right, which is, you know, five times close to five times more than we were doing just five years ago. And so we're, and it's because we've got a really talented staff and an amazing group of people that work there. Probably 65, 70% of the workforce is prior service, and then everybody else that that is on staff is somehow connected or loves veterans in a certain way, and so, yeah, we're blessed. Man for sure. That's awesome.

Speaker 2:

What an awesome culture to be involved with, too, with all those folks.

Speaker 1:

It's not bad.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, yeah, sounds like it so specific to the industry. Whether it's what you guys are doing is all residential, which is neat. I haven't had a chance to really talk to so many in the residential community. I'm trained as a residential carpenter sounds like yours well, so it's a tough. I mean, regardless of whether you're on the residential or commercial side, it's a stressful industry for sure, and I imagine, even though you guys are doing some amazing things, there's got to be a lot of stress involved as well with products not around time and you know sponsors that fall through, and you guys have some heavy hitter sponsors, which is fantastic. I think last we spoke, you were backed by was it Home Depot, home?

Speaker 1:

Depot and Lowe's.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, that's awesome.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, they both, even though they like, compete in the marketplace. They both invest in what we're doing and we're very thankful for that.

Speaker 2:

That's awesome. So through this conversation I mean obviously I know your heart and your background in the service. You have such a heart for people other than maybe the dealing with the stress or being with those folks through the tough times. Give me some practical ways. How do you think your service has helped you with all this?

Speaker 1:

I think understanding organizational structure, also understanding that the great thing about being in the military is that you learn how to segment time Right, because I remember there's a lot of times, whether you're in training, whether you're overseas, you learn how to go. Well, if I can just make it to the next meal, I'm good. I think you just make it lunch, everything's gonna be great. And learn how to take things in small chunks. I think learning how to backwards plan, which is a skill that you have to learn and you have to feel the first thing you have to learn, figure out is what is my objective? And then figure out my objective and then plan backwards from that and what are the steps that are going to get me to that, in a backwards sort of fashion, so that it'll lead you to what your first steps are going to be. That's a skill that is employed in the military.

Speaker 1:

I think also, too, in the in that the military teaches you that you are not the most important cog in the chain. That that's a bad it was a bad reference there. Cog in the chain, how about cog in the wheel? Yeah, you're not the most important cog in the wheel, right, and that the, that the big wheel will keep on rolling without you, and so understanding that the people that you lead are more important than you are Right, and that leadership is about letting other people rise up Rather than you rising up, and that if you rise up, you, if they rise up, you'll rise up with them, and so giving people opportunities for success. And so I think that those kind of characteristics that I was taught and learned Throughout my time and service have served me well in my you know, my leadership role that I have now within my department.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I love that man and again I want to go back to it's like all these soft skills, that's, that's so important and I I think we're coming around as maybe not specifically in industry, but as a culture too, as people starting to value those a lot more, because Decades ago it was. I mean, if you go into the infantry you're not gonna have any skills. And I've said before, like those guys can lead people into combat, so they can lead your corporate culture, you know, forward somehow, that's all of those folks, so absolutely.

Speaker 2:

Great yeah so.

Speaker 1:

With a lot of profanity. Yeah that's right profanity leading you forward, yeah especially with the Marines, the effort is best.

Speaker 2:

Favorite, the favorite word. I'll call it yeah, man, you've. So you've had a really interesting route to get where you're at and you know you still got definitely a couple few good years in you and, and as we know, man ministry continues till the day you die.

Speaker 2:

So we know you're gonna be doing this in some form or fashion until you're six hundred my man, so let's talk about percent if you had to go back and maybe not not the trouble you got in or anything like that, I think you already know, hey, life could have gone a little differently, right, but it went the way it went. You've been very successful in what you do, you've had a really good run in the service. But if you could give some folks some advice on maybe something you would change or do a little different, what would you say?

Speaker 1:

Well, I think the first thing is that I would have joined the military when I was 18. I mean, I would have started my adult life like that, whether you serve four years or 40. I think, starting 18 With four years in the military or three years in the military to give you the discipline and the structure and then to just to be able to learn From leaders that have been there and done that If I had to do all over again I would have done that right. And also to, from a practical standpoint, if you join the army when you're 18, you can retire when you're 38 and not 58, right, yeah, right. And you can have two careers, which I know for I've got.

Speaker 1:

I've got friends I know right now that are my age 58. They don't only have a military retirement, but then they got a retirement from another company or another organization at 58 and they're doing pretty dang well, yeah, and so that's just the practical side of there's so many life lessons that you can learn by my serving. And then to, I think, with the relationship that you build, the friendships that you forge Throughout your time in service. I mean, I'll be honest, man, I'm a big believer in compulsory service. I think everybody. I mean they do it in Israel. I think you know you turn you graduate high school, man, go do two years Right.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, there's a couple countries I mean I know Germany used to be. That too, was public services some.

Speaker 1:

All right, maybe not the military service you have to go work on as an EMT or their equivalent. Some kind of public service, right, and, and you know, maybe if we did that we wouldn't have, you know, an incredibly self-absorbed generation that you know was just concerned about themselves. Right, maybe, right hopefully right.

Speaker 2:

I definitely am glad I joined at 17. I was turning 18, or I turned 18 right before bootcamp, but I am glad you man I would have gotten in so much trouble because I I Was hanging with the wrong crowd sometimes and I'm glad I did it because I it forced me to grow up and I'm a big. I completely agree with you that if you're gonna do it, do it when you're young, do it before you're broken, before everything starts you'd have been with me, man.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I'd be, I would have been the guy. I would have been the guy leading you astray.

Speaker 2:

That's right. Yeah, we both would have gotten in trouble and but it's, it's funny you talk about these guys that are retiring out. I've got all these folks that I served with that, these guys, you know, we hung out together, we partied together, we had a good time and now I'm going. How the heck are you like an E8, e9, retiring man? What I knew you as this knucklehead, you know, 15 years ago. So it is wild. But, yeah, definitely encouraged folks to get involved Early. So the the folks that are transitioning out, obviously with the podcast and I know you feel this way too we think this industry is a very viable way of living, whether that's you're working with a nonprofit, working in residential, working commercial, what have you. What would you say to those vets that are transitioning out to try to encourage them to join the construction industry?

Speaker 1:

Well, I would say that the construction industry has a bright future right. First of all, we have a growing population. We have from the residential side of things, we do not have enough housing in this country, specifically in affordable housing. We don't have any. We don't have enough rental property. You see it, and it's that's Evidence by the exorbitant prices that people are paying for houses now and I know down in Texas you're seeing it as well and so there is a bright future in housing because people need, people need, we need to have a space where, where you know, a young couple this there's 25, 26 years old Can afford to buy a home right and and create some wealth, some generational wealth in their lives. Otherwise, we're going to have a, we're going to have a, an entire generation that's leveraged into debt. And so I think there's a bright future and and and folks that want to be entrepreneurs and want to be contractors, I think there is a bright future in the nonprofit space as far as building with habitat for humanity and other organizations like that, organizations like what we do.

Speaker 1:

Um, there there's also um, you know the commercial world is also wide open as well, and um, people always, you know you got a lot of down, like our downtown here in statesville burned Three months ago. Right, I mean it burned like, like this old section of downtown statesville, north carolina. A whole corner burned and Buildings that were built in the 1890s were reduced to just brick shells. Well, what's going to have to happen? It's going to that can't be replaced Like it was built in, you know, 1895. It's got to be replaced with modern construction techniques, with, with safety in mind, because the reason it burned is because there was, you know it was like a tinderbox waiting to happen, you know. And so there's, there's all kinds of um, not only new construction on on on property that's available, but In the inner cities, where revitalization needs to happen, um, the the field is wide open and it needs good people, it needs great leaders, it needs intuitive thinkers, um, and it needs people that can, that can think creatively as well.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and there's some wild statistics out there, you know it. I don't say this to scare people, but we in the industry know that. Uh, I want to say the average age of tradesperson's like 55 right now, and so, hey, that's younger. Yeah yeah so, but it was, I want to say, a decade or so ago, it was like 30s. So yeah, there's all these people that are retiring out with all that awesome knowledge.

Speaker 1:

But with the money's good. Exactly that's the other part of it. People don't realize these plumbers.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I mean some of these guys. Uh, I'm a project superintendent, right, I'm leading a, a multi-million dollar, very large project, but I've got some guys in the trades that are making twice what I do. It's wild, um, and and good for them. I'm like man, you know it. Yeah, it's hard work, um, but man, they're pulling some of the OT. You get trained in your apprenticeship so there's definitely opportunity and you work hard and it's it's. It's that old, typical or not typical, I shouldn't say, but it's that old school. Just Work your way up, try and work hard. American lifestyle and these guys are doing very well for themselves. Uh, so it's super encouraging. So I'm always trying to encourage people to get into the industry. Part of it is selfishly like I need we. It's very funny when we have a young cat that comes on the job site. We see this guy come on and go. You know they're 18, 19, 20 years old and we just swarm them because we're trying to encourage that individual to stay in and say, hey, man.

Speaker 1:

I know this. Hey, you can do this.

Speaker 2:

Yeah.

Speaker 1:

You're gonna be right exactly.

Speaker 2:

And, uh, it's cool because I I really value Getting to see some of these guys that go through their apprenticeship and then become journeymen. Um, I've had, uh, a few of them that I get to see them walk into that foreman position and now he's the guy sitting at the table with me that I get to coordinate the work with and I'm just, I'm so proud of them and this is not my employee, but I've gotten to see them. So it's like your, your kid you're seeing grow up and it's just really neat to see that. And then they're starting their family and, yeah, able to work a down payment on their first house.

Speaker 2:

So the money's there for sure, yeah, and it's hard work. I mean nobody sugarcoating it, but it's. It's rewarding work too. I think people need to to mention that also. It's hard but definitely rewarding.

Speaker 1:

I sort of like I heard us saying one time it's like uh man who comes home at the end of the day stinking From sweat is one of the happiest dudes on the planet.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, because you know what that smells like. Smells like money, yeah. Yeah so, uh, let me ask this so if we've got folks, um, that are in the industry I've talked to a lot of guests about this it is tough, it's very stressful at times Um, a lot of things are out of your control. Uh, I feel like, you know, as a super, there's everything's on fire all the time. I'm always putting out fires.

Speaker 2:

So I enjoy it. I mean, I love collaborating and coordinating with all my trades, but it's very hard to tough it out. So the industry I don't want to say a weeds people out. But man, you got to, you got to have very thick skin to do this, especially in the field. So if we've got those folks and especially I want to hear from you as a chaplain Um, if, if this was one of your joes and this is somebody that just feels like giving up, and I don't mean the mental health aspect of uh, like suicidal ideations which is Is it amazing in the?

Speaker 2:

industry. Yeah, if they're just down and out, man, what? What do you say to these folks to encourage them and show them the light at the end of the tunnel?

Speaker 1:

Well, I mean, you know well, they got to see the light at the end of the tunnel, right? Sometimes, when you're in the midst of a tactical situation and things are bad, that day, you don't see it right, you don't see the effects of your work, and many times I would say this that that frustration is determined by a leadership culture that doesn't understand people. You know, and so I've done this with my son, right? So my son works in the. He's in the drone industry, right, and so he works for a company that provides surveillance for power companies where they go out and assess delivery lines for the power company locally. It's a great job. I mean, do this kid? He's a high school graduate. He's making more money than a dude with a master's degree flying a drone right, all kinds of money, right and.

Speaker 1:

But he gets frustrated with the culture sometimes of where he's working, and he's called me on several occasions. He's been there almost three years now. He stuck it out. He was like, oh, I'm going to quit and I'm going to do something else. So I'm like, well, what are you going to do? Right? I said, well, let's, let's back up, let's evaluate where you're at. I said is there opportunity for growth where you're at. He was like, well, yeah. And I was like well, what is that? What does that window look like for you? How far out is that? Well, I got to do this and I got to do that. And so by he might have been frustrated that particular day with one thing that his supervisor said to him and he was ready to chalk it in and ready to walk and go do something where he's making half the amount of money he's making. That's not going to provide nearly the satisfaction that he's got going because he's employing the skill that he's developed in the last couple of years. He was ready to walk away from it. But just by having the opportunity to redirect his perspective and think long term about where he's headed and where he wants to be Now, if you fast forward now, he's gotten a new position within that organization where now he's supervising five or six other drone pilots.

Speaker 1:

He gets to move freely about the cabin, if you will. And he came by my office the other day and I was like what are you doing here? And he's like well, you know, my new job allows me to float between towns where my guys are working, and I was like you got a pretty good gig, don't you? And he was like yeah, I do. And so when you're in the thick of the frustration, you don't see where you're headed, and it's up to the leader of the organization to be able to take a stop, push, pause and go. Hey brother, let's take a look. Hey sister, let's take a look at where you're at and where you're headed and let's look at the possibilities here. And so I think we live in a society that is all about instant gratification, you know, because, like right now, bro, like I can get off the phone here with you and I can jump on Amazon Prime and I can order something, and that bad boy is going to be here in less than 48 hours, right? Or?

Speaker 2:

sometimes same day. Now yeah.

Speaker 1:

And sometimes same day. If you're living in Dallas, maybe you've got same day and you've got a drone delivering it and putting it in your chimney for you.

Speaker 2:

Oh we're not there yet.

Speaker 1:

Like when I was a kid, we would order stuff out of the JCPenney magazine. You would cut a thing out of the magazine and you would write down with a pen what you wanted. You would then get in mom's car and drive to JCPenney. I would hand it to a woman at the desk and then she would mail that in to JCPenney headquarters in some town in the Midwest and then, like six weeks later, what I ordered would come in and I would be so excited and I thought that was amazing, right, yeah. And now we've got.

Speaker 1:

And so we've got a generation that they want results and they want promotion right now. And we have to, as leaders, teach them about the discipline of patience and the discipline of learning your craft and basically earning the right to be heard, because you can have a lot of paper with you, but it's character, it's dependability, it's being able to relate with others and build relationships with others. Those are the things that make a great team, along with all the education that you brought to the table and your technical capacity and the ability to do whatever it is you do with chat GPT. Right, got it, I got it, yeah. But if you can't see the forest through the trees and look long term and realize that your life is bigger than when you're in your 20s and understand that you're plotting a course.

Speaker 1:

You know, I tell everybody, my wife and I, we go physically train every single day of our lives. Every single day I do something. I'm 58, almost 58 years old and people will go what are you training for? I'm like I'm training to be 85. That's what I'm training to be.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I like that.

Speaker 1:

I'm training to be 85 year old dude that my kids are not worried about. I'm self-sufficient, right, and I'm looking. I'm looking 20, some years, 27 years down the road, right, and we got. We got people that can't. We have to teach them how to look down the road. That's what we got to do.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and I appreciate sharing that. And I know you're hard too. People have to earn that right at the table. But I get what you're saying, like obviously everybody wants and deserves to be heard at some point, but you're not going to get that 20 years of industry experience in a matter of two years.

Speaker 2:

There's a lot of value and I tell the guys that I'm bringing up that, look, you're going to get overwhelmed if you try to learn everything at once. It doesn't work like that in this industry. It's going to take you three to five years to even feel comfortable in what you're talking about. I mean speaking from a general contractor side. You got to learn all these trades. You have to know a little bit about everything, but that doesn't come automatically. I don't care how smart you are, I don't care what your GPA was. It's going to take you a while to really just understand the whole field of things that's going on. But that's okay. The industry is designed that way.

Speaker 2:

And I think that really stresses a lot of people out.

Speaker 1:

I've been there too.

Speaker 2:

But when I've stuck it out and kept my nose to the grindstone on those tough jobs like your son you said it's so easy right now because everybody's hiring, it is easy to just throw in the towel. But at least from my experience here locally in the Dallas Fort Worth area, companies are wising up to that.

Speaker 2:

It's starting to slowly change but companies are seeing that hey this person brings value, they deserve to get paid X amount of dollars and they're not going to take anybody just because, oh, I spent six months at this company and learned this process. Well, it's dangerous. I'm hopping around, that looks dangerous. I'm not on your resume.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, and just because you fog a mirror doesn't mean you're good at what you do, right? I mean, I would say this you know what it takes to get the experience of 20 years. It's 20 years, exactly.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, yeah, people want it now.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I mean, it's just. I mean that's just the. You get 20 years of experience by doing it for 20 years. There's no shortcuts to that, right, that's what's you know old school way of looking at. That's what wisdom is. Yeah, right.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and I wise dude. I'll say this I've been doing this on the commercial side a little over 12 years and I mean, I'll admit, only in the last couple of years did I really feel completely competent and confident in running bigger jobs. I mean, it took, it takes a while.

Speaker 2:

I mean, the guys know that and they respect that. You know, they know if you're a greenhorn, that's fine. You're there to learn and talk to people. Talk to the trades, learn what they're doing. They're forming and superintendents for a reason because they enjoy what the trade. They might not enjoy the culture sometimes, but they definitely enjoy the trade that they do.

Speaker 1:

So all right man.

Speaker 2:

Well, Brad buddy, I think this has been my longest interview, and that is fine with me. I've really enjoyed catching up with you. I'm just very encouraged to see all the things you guys are doing and how the organization is growing.

Speaker 1:

I know somehow I'm going to call it. Can I throw a plug in? 100%? Absolutely, yeah, man. If you want to find out more about Purple Heart Homes, you can go to phhusaorg. That's P-H-H-U-S-A-Dot-O-R-G. Sounds like I've done that before. Yeah, a couple of times.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and I'll put links on the channels to that if you guys want to donate. It's an organization that I 100% believe in. Brad is who he says he is. The guy has an amazing heart, clearly, with what he's been through, the folks that he's served alongside of and the folks that he continues to serve man, we appreciate you. I want to say, on behalf of anybody that's listening Brad, thank you for what you're doing and congratulations on your upcoming retirement.

Speaker 1:

Thanks, scott, appreciate it. We're going to bless and be with you, my friend, and thanks for everybody for listening. We're super grateful. Thanks, brother.

Speaker 2:

All right If you're a military veteran in the construction industry or you're in the construction industry and support our military vets and you'd like to be a guest on the podcast. You can find me at constructionvetpodcastcom or send me a message on LinkedIn. You can find me there at ScottFriend. Let's share the stories and motivate others.

Veterans in Construction
Military Service and Lifelong Friendships
Soft Skills in Veterans
Empowering Veterans Through Construction Nonprofit
Manufacturing Tiny Homes for Veterans
Vetting and Prioritizing Veterans for Assistance
Transitioning From Military to Construction Leadership
Trades Industry Opportunities and Challenges
Long-Term Perspective and Patience in Careers
Construction Journey of Purple Heart Veterans