When you think boot camp, fatigues and physical training are probably what comes to mind. But inside Brooks Brothers at Westfarms Mall, boot camp took on a whole new meaning on Friday.
Twenty-two men and women from across the country were outfitted with business attire on day one of the University of Connecticut’s Bootcamp Entrepreneurship Program for veterans with disabilities.
“They say it’s a psychological thing, and I guess it’s true. I feel like I’m ready to do some business,” said Army veteran Christopher Powell.
Powell is epileptic. He served in the Army for more than a decade, deploying once in 2007. He applied after discovering this program at Walter Reed Medical Center outside Washington, D.C. and hopes it can help him start a commercial cleaning company.
“I think they really believe in trying to help people,” said Powell. “Not only just with their plan, but getting them off the ground and getting them going.”
Brooks Brothers is known for their quality suits and the cost of the program is nearly $15,000 per veteran. But the company says that’s nothing in comparison to cost of the sacrifice they’ve made for our country.
“And we don’t want anything from them,” said store manager Kim Cleverdon. “We just want them to start their new life, get back into society, and feel like they’re of value. And that’s very important for us.” Cleverdon says Brooks Brothers invests in the program, now in its fourth year, because they want to help these soldiers in rebuilding their identities.
That’s something program manager Mike Zacchea, a veteran himself, can relate to.
“My life was saved by two Marines whose names I never learned who dragged me out of the kill zone when I was very severely wounded, so I really feel every year like I’m giving back to veterans,” he said.
“Find a new purpose to give you something so when you wake up in the morning you go out and do what it is that you want to obtain,” said Powell.