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Whether they are military personnel leaving active duty at one of Jacksonville’s two advanced naval bases or relocating to a sunnier destination after an assignment up north, making this region their permanent home is a wise decision for military veterans.

Veterans leave the military with a wealth of diverse training that can be crosswalked to the civilian workforce. However, sometimes veterans may not see how their skills can translate, or they may need an objective party to assist in articulating these skills. In addition to these hard skills, veterans possess employability skills—sometimes called soft skills—such as leadership, decision-making, initiative, persistence and teamwork. Fortunately, many military and community-based organizations exist to assist veterans in preparing for a successful transition. Skillbridge, CareerSource Northeast Florida, Onward to Opportunity, Operation New Uniform, The Cohen Center, 211 and the Wounded Warrior Project all offer veterans valuable resources.

The Jacksonville region, its companies and resources like Earn Up salute veterans and recognize the value they bring to Northeast Florida. The area works to help bridge the culture gap between civilian employers and veterans looking for new opportunities so that both parties can thrive together. BAE Systems Jacksonville Ship Repair is a great example of a company who smoothly transitions veterans into a civilian role. Jacksonville Ship Repair services many US Navy ships, as well as yachts of all sizes, so veterans who are familiar with these crafts are already a step ahead. Ship maintenance requires a wide array of skilled workers—from carpentry and steel fabrication to insulation and painting. This local company employs over 800 staff and provides shift options, which is especially beneficial to veterans who are enrolled in educational coursework. Jacksonville Ship Repair also provides award-winning Employee Resource Groups, including a Veteran’s Support Network.

Veterans in Jacksonville have also found success in entrepreneurship. Chad Cahoy, a retired 20-year Navy veteran, turned his experience as a command fitness leader into a profitable fitness business. After retirement, Cahoy earned a Bachelor’s degree in Sports Medicine and Fitness Technology and an Associate’s degree in Physical Therapy from Keiser University. In May 2020, he opened Jacksonville Strength & Athletics, LLC, and in less than two years, his gym became financially stable and is still thriving.

Jesus Garay also started his own business after 20 years of active military service. Garay founded Global Freight & Commerce, which is 100% owner-operated, and the company has become a leader in the region’s Transportation and Logistics space. Garay’s customers include FEMA, JB Hunt and Pepsi.  He is committed to actively supporting the skill-building and betterment of others in the community, serving as a mentor in addition to being an employer.

Like Cahoy, some veterans choose to take advantage of the GI Bill and attend local colleges and universities to further their training. Beth Wilder relocated to Jacksonville after a time of service with the Navy because of the academic and athletic opportunities available for her children. Attending Keiser University gave her the flexibility to earn a degree in Business Administration while working, and her involvement in the university led her to an interview and full-time job offer from TOTE Services as a Marine Personnel Specialist.

Passionate about her work as a Corpsman in orthopedics during her fourteen years in the Navy, Loveann Burch chose to attend FSCJ’s Biomedical program and then continued her education in Nova Southeastern University’s competitive Physician’s Assistant degree program. Burch enjoyed how this career pathway mirrors the military’s emphasis on work-based learning.

We are thankful for the service veterans have provided to our country. In response, Earn Up provides resources to aid their transition into the civilian workforce as they continue to make this region their home.