Every year at the beginning of summer, Memorial Day presents us with the solemn privilege to honor and remember the men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces who died while serving our country. Whether we visit our local cemeteries or memorials, participate in community or family gatherings, or simply take a moment's pause from our busy lives, each of us chooses to observe this special day in our own way. At Citi this week, our New York-based colleagues have volunteered at events organized by the USO of Metropolitan New York, including writing and collecting letters of appreciation for active duty military. Our Citi Salutes chapters at sites across the U.S. have also been organizing events in honor of Memorial Day.
As a Co-Lead of the Citi Salutes Affinity, I often speak to veterans and current service members about their military experience and what it's like to navigate the transition to civilian life. The importance of those conversations goes well beyond helping to inform our initiatives in support of the military community, both within and outside of Citi. For me, their value lies in the light they shed on issues that may not be well understood or that civilians have never experienced in their own lives. That's why I recently decided to reach out to some members of our Citi Salutes network to get their personal takes on Memorial Day and what it means to them. Bruno Pell, Vice President, Veteran Recruiting Initiative, Jacksonville, Mark Tomlinson, Risk COO Strategic and Budgetary Sr. Head, Tampa, and Patrick Mcginley, Director, Compliance, New York, responded to my questions with candor and insight. We started out with a discussion about their military careers and paths to Citi, and went on to talk about Memorial Day and how they honor those who have given their lives to their country.
Can you tell me a little bit about your military careers? What drove you to join the service, and what were your experiences like?
Bruno: After graduating from high school in Cleveland, Ohio, I got a job at a small local steel mill. It was a great position for a recent grad, but I quickly realized it didn't offer enough opportunities for professional growth. My father served in the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam era and had always encouraged me to consider that service and the many growth opportunities it offers to those who join up. So, at age 21 I enlisted in the Air Force and became an Aircraft Maintenance Technician, specializing in jet engine technology. I was able to travel to numerous locations in the U.S. and abroad, and served in Operation Just Cause in Panama, Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm in the Middle East, and in Italy to support our operations in Kosovo. After 10 years as a Technician, I entered the Air Force's Recruiting Service in 1999, and have cherished my role as a recruiter ever since.
Mark: I enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps right out of high school because I saw it as an opportunity to see and experience the world, and also to earn money for college. I was stationed at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, where my primary duty was working in the personnel department of the HQ command element for a 3 Star General, which allowed me to interact with some very senior level officers and enlisted personnel, who helped shape my understanding of what strong and effective leadership looks like. I also deployed to Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm for three months, during which I developed an even greater understanding of model leadership by working with the enlisted personnel as they went about their jobs and duties. My four years of active duty service (plus six years as a reservist) exceeded my expectations and helped lay down the solid foundation I have been able to build my personal character, core beliefs, virtues and values upon.
Patrick: I wanted to be a Marine from the time I was 15 years old. I also admired the noticeable personal transitions undergone by some of my cousins who entered the service before I did. I joined the Marines while I was still in high school and was shipped off to boot camp at Parris Island, South Carolina, six weeks after graduation. Throughout my four years of active duty service from 1988 to 1992, I was a Rifleman and a Fire Team Leader in the Infantry and was meritoriously promoted in rank. I am also a veteran of Desert Storm and served in many different places throughout my military career, including Honduras, Panama, Japan, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.
Thank you all for your service. How did you come to join Citi?
Bruno: After retiring from the Air Force, I worked for a placement firm that specialized in recruiting veterans for the Department of State. Only a year later, I decided to join Citi because of the true commitment to veteran inclusion displayed through the Citi Salutes network. And I could hardly wait to begin recruiting other veterans to Citi! The position and wonderful partnerships I now have here are very gratifying, as I have the opportunity to give back to the veteran and military community by helping my military brothers and sisters find employment and new careers.
Mark: I was working as an internal auditor here in Tampa for a national healthcare company and was looking to get into the banking sector as a bank auditor. Citi Tampa had several openings, so I went to the company's website, set up my career profile and applied. I decided to keep applying until someone at Citi called me, either to talk about the job posting or to tell me to stop applying… the rest is history. I credit my never-say-never drive that I learned from my military experience for enabling me to embark on my new financial career.
Patrick: I saw a job opening at Citi that aligned with my resume and decided to apply. I was also attracted to the fact that Citi has a strong veteran's network. I also knew that certain traits imparted to me during my service in the Marines -- like perseverance, teamwork, integrity and perspective -- would translate well to my new career at the firm. Fortunately, this turned out to be right.
What does Memorial Day mean to you? As a veteran, does the day's significance mean something different for you today compared to before your service?
Bruno: As the son of a veteran, I have always cherished Memorial Day. Though I will admit, more so now than I did before I served. To me, Memorial Day is a day of remembrance. During Operation Desert Storm, we lost one of our AC-130 Gun Ships with 13 people onboard. I remember those that I knew and the sacrifices of others I didn't know. That brings to mind a saying we have in the military: "all gave some; some gave all." As a history buff, I also pause and give thanks to all those who have given their lives while fighting for our independence up until today. And I say a prayer for those listed as POW/MIA because their families are left with a vacant seat at the dinner table.
Mark: Before I was a Marine, the meaning of Memorial Day to me was to honor the living WWI and WWII veterans in my hometown. Now, my deep appreciation for Memorial Day is towards those who have given their lives in service to their country. Their tombstones remind all of us among the living of their selfless actions. Over the years, the importance of Memorial Day to me has come to be encapsulated in a simple quote: "Uncommon valor was a common virtue." Every Memorial Day, we honor uncommon valor, or bravery not normally seen, in a group of individuals who shared that positive and rare character trait.
Patrick: Memorial Day is about honoring those who have died in service to our country. While it's okay to have it be a fun day, it's important to pause and remember that it is primarily a day of remembrance and not just a holiday. I would definitely say that for me, the day's significance has changed. I went into the military very young and matured a lot during the time I served. Particularly as a combat veteran, the sacrifices of those who died in combat now feel very close to home.
How will you honor our fallen service members this year? Are you participating in any of the activities supported by Citi around Memorial Day?
Bruno: I will be participating in and helping with the events and activities at my local Veterans Memorial Center. We will be holding a memorial service to honor local heroes killed in the line of duty in Iraq last year, which will be led by a Medal of Honor recipient. After the memorial service there will be a ceremony at the Cape Canaveral National Cemetery to honor our fallen service members. As a member of the Citi Salutes Jacksonville chapter, I also helped plan our events in observance of Memorial Day.
Mark: Each year, my wife, three daughters and I attend a Memorial Day observance that is sponsored by our local funeral home. It's hosted by the U.S. Marine Corps League and the local Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) chapter. There's always a nice crowd in attendance. And yes, I will be attending a Memorial Day observance hosted by the Citi Salutes Tampa chapter.
Patrick: Every Memorial Day I take some time to remember our fallen and missing in action, and encourage my family to do the same. As an active member and through the efforts of the Citi Salutes Affinity and the Marine Corps League I know that I'm also helping others be aware and involved in memory of our fallen service members. I also enjoyed taking part in a Fleet Week event organized by the USO of Metropolitan New York leading up to Memorial Day.
Is there something you wish people (or institutions) would do more of or less of when it comes to honoring both our living and fallen service members?
Bruno: Honor those who have fallen by always remembering them! Freedom isn't free, and some have paid the ultimate price for our freedoms. If you see a veteran, take a moment to thank them for his or her service. Also, keep in mind that we lose over 20 veterans a day to suicide. If you know a veteran who is going through a tough time, please reach out and let them know that you are there and care. Listen to them and, if needed, find them help.
Mark: I would simply ask that Americans and our great institutions set aside their differences for at least a day and make a concerted effort to come together to observe and express their gratitude towards those that gave their lives, and their families, as well as active duty military and veterans.
Patrick: People should focus less on the big Memorial Day weekend parties and focus more on the sacrifices of our fallen service members. I also hope that institutions don't lose their increased energy and focus on issues unique to veterans that the military community has seen develop over the past decade. And employers should continue to seek out and embrace the wealth of valuable talent that the veteran community can provide.