On June 3rd, HAVA/ACADEMI hosted its 6th Annual Family Day, hosting close to 200 disabled military veterans and their families at ACADEMI’s 4,000-acre training center in Moyock, NC. The event featured shooting activities for veterans and their spouses, exhibitions, urban tactics training simulations, gift bags, raffle prizes, youth airsoft activities and a kid’s station. Jason DeYonker, the chief executive officer of ACADEMI’s parent company, Constellis, kicked off the day’s festivities by speaking about the importance of Family Day and giving back to our veterans and their families. During lunch, Constellis caught up with some of the veteran attendees to find out more about their military experience and to get their take on the event. Read their responses below.
“HAVA/ACADEMI day really shows us that companies care about us and support veterans. It’s really amazing to see how much the sponsors and HAVA do for us at this event. We feel honored – it changes some veterans’ minds about whether or not people actually care. I just want to say that on behalf of everyone, we truly appreciate this day”
ROBERT ELLIOTT – Marine Corps Veteran
DENNIS “LUNCHBOX” BETHEL
FIRST OF ALL, WHY DO THEY CALL YOU LUNCHBOX?
When I was in the Army, I was working for a guy named Fernandez and he said I reminded him of the kid who stole his lunch money one time. The name has stuck with me. I think it’s fitting
CAN YOU TELL ME A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOUR MILITARY BACKGROUND?
I was a K9 handler for the Army. I did 10 years of active duty for the Army and deployed to Iraq for 26 months.
CAN YOU TELL ME A LITTLE ABOUT YOUR INJURY?
I have lower back injuries from being blown up three different times. I haven’t had any major surgeries but I’ve had multiple spinal injections to help with the pain.
WHAT WAS YOUR TRANSITION LIKE INTO CIVILIAN LIFE?
The transition was hard. There is a certain culture in the military that is very different to civilian life. I wasn’t in a good place when I came home, and it took a lot for me to get back on my feet.
WHAT DO YOU DO NOW?
I am a full-time training captain for police officers. I run the patrol operations and ensure all necessary training requirements for officers are completed on-time.
WHAT DO YOU LIKE MOST ABOUT THIS EVENT?
It gives veterans the opportunity to get back into shooting and show them that can still do sports and be athletic. A lot of veterans lose their self-identity when they get out of the military. This event gives a little piece of that back to them.
WHY IS THIS EVENT IMPORTANT TO YOU?
I’m able to volunteer and give back to other veterans. Seeing the light in veterans’ eyes when they realize they can shoot when they didn’t think it was possible is an amazing feeling and is something I’m really proud to be a part of.
IS THIS YOUR FIRST TIME AT THIS HAVA/ACADEMI FAMILY DAY?
This is my 6th year at HAVA/ACADEMI Family Day. I’ve attended every year.
“HAVA/ACADEMI Family Day is especially important for me and my son to spend time shooting and having fun. It’s something we can still do together. He took the day off of work this year so that he could attend this event with me.”
ROBERT GERS – Army Veteran
With more than 50 percent of its 17,000 workforce being former military or law enforcement, Constellis values the critical knowledge and potential of veterans worldwide and is dedicated to providing them with ample opportunity for successful civilian careers.
Learn more about our veteran hiring practices at constellis.com/careers.