BAC's Nick De Gregorio: On Veterans Day, here is my answer to the great question of my military generation

In one hero’s words live the sentiments of every man and woman who ever served their country. How do we get better when we can’t really ever let it go?

The Wall Street Journal’s report on the “Mixed Blessing of the Medal of Honor" hits home for many veterans, including myself.

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It reminds me of the life I used to live before working in financial services, as a Marine Corps infantry officer of nine years. Medal of Honor recipient Dakota Meyer’s quote resonates with me: “How do I ever get better when I can’t really ever let it go? When I’m still talking about it and reliving it every single day?” 

While I’m not a Medal of Honor recipient, I experienced combat in Afghanistan. Even so, my contributions to the war effort pale in comparison to the valorous deeds performed by Dakota Meyer. He is a hero, I am not. Full stop.

But in this hero’s words live the sentiments of every man and woman who ever served their country. How do we get better when we can’t really ever let it go?

That is probably the great unanswered question of my military generation. Too many veterans have made the tragic decision to end their lives; our divorce rates exceed those of the general population; our employment rate lags behind the national average.

For many of us the imprint of combat is felt beyond the tour of duty and carries over into the transition from military to civilian life.

For many of us, the imprint of combat is felt beyond the tour of duty and carries over into the transition from military to civilian life.

This should come as no surprise. Military life often requires individuals to make no-win, existential choices. We make these decisions far from the comfort of our families. And while we are away doing incredibly stressful work, we devote ourselves fully to the mission at hand, often with little or no time to prepare for life beyond our uniform.

Thankfully, military lessons are ubiquitous. I can lead; I can learn; I refuse to give up.

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Some might call these “soft skills,” a term that makes me bristle when I think of the life-or-death circumstances where these skills served me. It’s true that the technical world of finance was foreign to me when I left the service; however, the world of overcoming uncertainty wasn’t, and I was determined to prove myself to whoever would hire me.

Bank of America took a chance on me through their Veterans Associate Program(VAP), an initiative run by the bank’s Global Banking and Markets group for transitioning veterans in New York City.

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They didn’t have to. But I’m so grateful to have had this opportunity to prove myself.

I’m confident that my gratitude is echoed by all of the veterans who have been fortunate enough to pass through VAP since its inception a decade ago. Many of those alumni are now senior leaders at Bank of America and elsewhere on Wall Street — a testament to veterans’ instinctive ability to overcome deficits and find a way to win when an opportunity presents itself.

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So, back to Dakota Meyer’s question: How do we get better when we can’t really ever let it go?

A new mission

Perhaps the answer is to discover a new mission.

Bank of America offered me that new mission when they hired me to their Equities team, along with the almost 10,000 other veterans they have hired over the past several years. I am proud to work at a company that lives and breathes an ethos of service to those who have served.

And in today’s polarizing times, I can personally attest to the fact that our profession is getting it right.

Nick De Gregorio is an equity derivatives sales trader at Bank of America. A New Jersey native, he served nine years as a United States Marine Corps infantry officer with deployments to Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Bank of America has proudly supported the U.S. military and veterans nearly 100 years and is committed to improving their transition from military life to civilian life. This commitment is led by the company’s Military Affairs team, a dedicated group of leaders focused on service members and their families, and their successful reintegration into the civilian sector. Bank of America has dedicated resources to hire 10,000 veterans, guard and reservists and has programs, resources and networks to help them succeed in their careers at the company.