It was on Sept. 11, the day of horrific Islamic terrorist attacks on the U.S., when then high school senior Kyle Graham realized his career.
“After that day, I made up my mind that I wanted to serve my country,” Graham said. “I chose to attend the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.”
After graduating in 2006, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant. Following a series of additionally military training schools, he was deployed as a platoon leader in Baghdad, Iraq, in 2007-08. When he returned home, he was promoted to captain and provided training at the U.S. Army Armor School to teach young lieutenants to do the job he did in Iraq, which he did until he left the Army in 2011.
“I made a difference serving,” Graham said. “During my time in the Army, it was about more than just me … it was about the team, our nation and, while deployed, helping the people of Iraq.”
Graham said the military taught him how to lead a team through positive influence, which he now applies to Dow everyday.
“If you take care of people and support them, they can accomplish anything they set their mind to,” he said.Now the company’s site logistics leader, Graham’s military training and strong work ethic is part of the reason Dow is actively recruiting veterans into its workforce.
Graham represents Dow’s VetNet or Veterans Network aimed at supporting veterans and their families, military units and veterans’ organizations in the Southeast Louisiana region.Vet-Net was established to promote the value that veterans bring to Dow, provide a robust network of veterans on the site to help team members grow their careers, and to assist bringing veteran new hires into St. Charles Operations to ensure their long-term success.
The network assists veterans in the job application process by providing a website specifically for veterans called Dow Veteran Jobs.
VetNet also serves as an education resource, network, mentoring and providing development opportunities. It brings together existing veteran-centered groups in Michigan, Indiana and California with groups developing in Texas and Louisiana.
Dow plans on expanding VetNet to sites around the US. and then across North America.
“Our goal is to also connect veterans – both currently working and retirees – together and to celebrate the various holidays and events throughout the year that recognize veterans and their sacrifices,” said Graham, who was chosen to represent Dow at the Invictus Games.
Dow USA President Pedro Suarez said the company believes that “veterans embody heroism and service, some of the noblest elements of the human spirit. This makes us proud to support these games and also to provide opportunities for veterans to work for Dow.”
The Invictus Games were founded by Prince Harry to inspire recovery, support rehabilitation and generate greater understanding and respect for those who serve their country.
Dow has a longstanding track record of hiring veterans, and Graham is one of them.
Calling it an “incredible experience,” the Hahnville resident had just gotten off the plane from the Invictus Games held at Walt Disney Resort, Orlando, Fla., the only international Paralympics competition for wounded veterans.
Dow also is sponsor of the games. This year’s competition featured more than 500 military competitors from 14 nations in 10 sporting events.
“The trip was an amazing experience,” he said. “It definitely was something that was moving. We were there to hire vets and disabled vets.”
Dow has a network of an estimated 80 to 90 veterans. This is healthy number considering there are an estimated 21.8 million veterans in the U.S.
“It’s a push to hire our heroes and Dow has been developing programs to hire vets where Dow can,” Graham said. “I think vets are an amazing talent pool for any organization looking to bring in skilled individuals into their team,” he said. “Vets come from a team oriented environment.”
Graham knows what it means to transition from the military life to civilian life firsthand.
He served as a captain in the U.S. Army. His 5-1/2 year military service included a 15-month deployment in Iraq.“Fortunately my transition from the Army to Dow was very smooth,” Graham said. “I had an outstanding mentor withinDow and she helped me be successful.”
From his own experience, Graham said the challenge is helping veterans transition from military language to civilian life such as preparing a resume and interviewing for a job.
“Veterans are often confronted with the question, ‘What do I do now’ when leaving the service,” he said. “There are so many opportunities that exist for them and one of the key things we can do to help veterans is help them match their skills and desires to open roles in industry. This is a key outreach activity our Veterans Network within Dow is doing.”
Graham recounted a number of team members who were injured in service, including one vet who lost his legs. While at a military ball, he said the man walked on his prosthetics for the first time, and, “There wasn’t a dry eye among the thousand soldiers there.”
It’s vets like this one who continue to instill a passion in him to serve vets and now he’s doing it through Dow’s VetNet.
The vet community is made up of all walks of life and it promotes diversity in the hiring, he said. Dow acknowledges military training gives them a strong foundation of discipline, commitment and respect that promotes them in civilian careers.
“I’m proud to have served,” Graham said. “And I am proud to he a part of Dow and the efforts we are doing to help the veterans community.”