Veterans Day, also known as Armistice Day, is recognized annually in the United States on November 11. The first Veterans Day celebration occurred in Birmingham, Alabama in 1947 when a World War II Veteran, Raymond Weeks, organized a parade and festivities to honor all veterans. Prior to this, such remembrance took place on Armistice Day which originally celebrated the end of World War I. After WWII and Raymond Weeks celebrations, Congress and President Eisenhower passed a bill proclaiming November 11 as Veterans Day.
Veterans Day is observed in many ways in the United States including parades, church services, and through a moment of silence at 11 AM during ceremonies held at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington DC. The ceremony commences with a wreath laying at the Tomb of the Unknowns and continues inside the Memorial Amphitheater with a parade of colors by veterans' organizations. The ceremony is intended to honor and thank all who served in the United States Armed Forces.
Each year the Veterans Affairs Agency conducts a Veterans Day poster contest. The winning design is featured in VA facilities, military installations, and other prominent places. These posters illustrate the history, pride, and patriotism of US service men and women. The theme of Veterans Day 2022 is “Honor,” which is reflective of the military practice of answering the call to serve.
WEX honors its Veterans and military families through the WEXVets employee resource group (ERG). WEX has nine ERGs which serve as active communities, acting as touchpoints for various groups across WEX that share interests, cultures, identities, and backgrounds. These groups include: WEX NexGen, Women of WEX, Parents@WEX, WEXPride, WEXVets, Black Growth Council, WEXcessibility, Women in Tech @ WEX, and Latin X @ WEX.
The WEXVets ERG is rich with tradition and culture and has built a supportive community in keeping with the camaraderie fostered in the military. One example of the support WEXVets provides to its members is the tradition of the Murph Challenge which WEXVets do together (virtually) each spring. This event is a fundraising event for the LT. Michael P. Murphy Memorial Scholarship Foundation. The workout consists of running, pullups, push ups, and squats, and is a competition based on completion time.
Another prime example of community engagement within the veteran community at WEX is the tradition of sharing Challenge Coins. The WEXVets ERG has specially designed challenge coins which are shared to reward excellence, hard work, and instill unit pride. The WEXVets ERG has 130 members, all of which have unique backgrounds, stories, and experiences.
Celebrating Veteran and WEXer Abigail Blais
Abigail Blais has been a WEXer for over five years and currently works on the Treasury team as an analyst. Abigail is a proud member and current Chair of the WEXVets ERG and served as a signal intercept operator in the Marines.
Abigail signed up to join the Marines in 2000 in the fall of her senior year of high school. This meant leaving Maine for boot camp two weeks after her high school graduation. It seemed like a good move for her because she knew that mentally she wasn’t ready to go to college right away. June 26th, 2001, began 13 weeks of bootcamp in preparation for the physical, mental, and emotional strain of serving in the military. Abigail recalled what it was like spending 9/11 at boot camp. “At boot camp you’re not allowed to know what is going on outside. They did tell us about 9/11. We were in the period of our final test which was grueling in and of itself. Many of us thought the news of 9/11 wasn’t real, and that it was all part of the test. Leaving bootcamp and seeing the media post 9/11 was shocking. It wasn’t until about two years later that I saw footage of the event.”
After bootcamp Abigail attended two different schools, Signals Intelligence school in Florida, and Morse Code school in Arizona. Abigail laughed when looking back at the conversations she had with her Marines recruiter, “There was only one thing my Marines recruiter lied to me about, which was that it was required that I learn Morse Code. He knew that I’d be making a huge mistake if I didn’t learn Morse Code, it was a great job field so he bent the truth a little bit. So I learned Morse Code, and went to my assigned duty station in Hawaii, and I've never regretted having that skill in my toolkit.” This recruiter was one of the major reasons Abigail chose to join the Marines. He was honest with her about what he saw as opportunities for Abigail’s personal growth while at the same time instilling in her a sense of confidence in her strengths and providing her with unwavering support throughout her military pursuits.
As a result of graduating top of her class in signals intelligence school, Abigail was able to choose where she’d first serve and she chose Hawaii. While in Hawaii, Abigail lived on Ford Island in the middle of Pearl Harbor on the Island of Oahu and traveled up into the mountains every day for work. She copied Morse Code half the time and supported the Naval Pacific Fleet the other half, working from 3:30 AM to Noon everyday on a rotating shift. Throughout her three and a half years there she was able to explore some of the other Hawaiian islands and meet many people, some of whom remain good friends.
“I’m thankful that I decided to join the military when I was young. I’m also thankful that I came out the other side and came back into the civilian world. Some people that I joined with, after 9/11, didn’t come back. It gives me perspective in so many ways and makes me so incredibly proud to be from the United States. Being in the Marines exposed me to so much, just within the United States. I was immediately immersed in so many different cultures with people from all different backgrounds.” This perspective still influences Abigail in ways ranging from how she reacts to things she sees in the news, to the ways she handles different interactions she has with people at work. “We all come from various backgrounds, it's important to remember that everybody is different. And just as importantly it takes a lot of different people from different backgrounds and places to make up the United States.”
Leaving the military was a difficult decision for Abigail. She faced the choice to remain in the Marines for four more years or return to Maine and her family with no formal college education or job lined up. For some that would have been an easy decision, however, leaving the military was hard for Abigail as it meant saying goodbye to the friends who had turned into family, it meant leaving her job, which she loved, and it meant losing the structure and certainty the Marines had provided to her for the past five years. “I did well in the Marines, I had reached a specific rank which I was really proud of, but that doesn’t always translate into civilian life. I had worked my way up in those five years and leaving meant taking quite a few steps backwards. I wanted to come home to Maine where there weren't many jobs that aligned with the work skills I had gained in the military, so I started over.” In 2007 she started online school at the American Military University, and after receiving her associates degree there she completed her Bachelor's Degree at the University of Southern Maine in Portland.
Last year WEX began recognizing Veterans Day as a company-wide holiday. Abigail explained that this was the first time she had ever been given Veterans Day as a paid holiday. “It is so incredibly meaningful to me. It makes me feel like WEX wants to recognize all Veterans, in and out of the company.” Abigail has several family members who have served. Her dad was in the military in the Naval Reserves, her brother also served in the Marine Corps, and her husband served in the Navy. Veterans Day brings many emotions to the surface for Abigail, “It is during that day that I am able to reflect and think about those family members and the sacrifices they have made. Thinking about my brother specifically, he gave a lot during his time in, his friends gave a lot. Some of them came home, and others did not. I also think about my grandfathers who served in such a different time under very different conditions. They’ve all made sacrifices and Veterans Day is a time to remember them and recognize their service.”
Celebrating Veteran and WEXer Carrie Carney
Carrie Carney has been at WEX for just under five years performing advisory work for the Legal Compliance department. She is also an Army Veteran who served as a JAG at Fort Wainwright in Fairbanks, Alaska.
The summer before she graduated from the University of Maine School of Law Carrie interned at the Ellsworth, Maine District Attorney's Office and it was there that she first contemplated the possibility of joining the Army JAG. One of her coworkers who had been in the Army JAG Corps planted the idea in her head that summer. She went back to school the next fall and learned that the Dean of her law school had also been JAG, and it started to click with her that this was something she might actually want to do.
What’s unique about the JAG Corps is that it gives new law school graduates the opportunity to immediately be immersed in law in a highly applicable and unique way. Carrie explained that the immediate impact she could make and the promise of diverse experiences were both really appealing to her. So in 2000, she graduated and headed off to Virginia to begin training. The first two weeks at Fort Lee are run similarly to a traditional boot camp. After that was JAG school in Charlottesville, Virginia where she learned the specifics of the law that she would be practicing in the Army. Carrie was able to select her duty station and chose Alaska because it seemed like a unique opportunity. While stationed there she had numerous opportunities to explore the wilderness, and even participated in the Equinox Marathon.
The beginning of her job in Alaska entailed a significant amount of legal assistance work. This meant helping in any capacity, from writing wills - a document required of all soldiers - to family law matters, to providing legal resources to local service members, and many other tasks. The other part of her job, which in her words was “super exciting” was serving as a member of the trial counsel, on courts-martial. This also meant advising commanders on what’s called non-judicial punishment, which involves corrective action when a soldier demonstrates a deficiency in their behavior.
The experiences in the JAG corps prepared Carrie well for her future career. After her three years in Alaska where she had the opportunity to strengthen her legal skills, she transitioned back to Maine. Her first job out of the military was as a criminal prosecutor at the Knox County District Attorney’s Office which was a similar environment to the JAG Corps. Carrie has always used a military mindset when approaching legal work. “Ultimately the skills that I learned in the army, being resilient and tough, prepared me for all the transitions in my life. Being in the military you learn quickly how to deal with very different people. And regardless of the situation at hand you have to persevere with tenacity.”
Veterans Day is a personal thing for Carrie. It is a reminder of the hard work and sacrifice she and other soldiers have made. The day makes her think of friends who continued to serve after Carrie’s time at Fort Wainwright. “One of my friends who was also an attorney was sent to the jungle in the Philippines as the operational law attorney for the Special Forces after 9-11. I can only imagine how hard that really was.” What comes with Veterans Day for Carrie is also an appreciation for her support system. “I think on this day about the people who support soldiers and Veterans. My husband moved to Alaska with me. He provided me with emotional support with all the work I had to do.”
“It feels incredible to have Veterans Day off. It makes me love working for a company that acknowledges the work and sacrifices Veterans have made, not only at WEX but around the nation. Veterans come in all different shapes, sizes, and experiences, and to have that day recognized is special.”
Celebrating Veteran and WEXer Will Klotz
Will Klotz works for WEX on the Information Security team and is a Veteran, having served in the Army for eight years.
Will’s military story is a little different from most. He decided to enlist at the age of 28, as a married man with four kids. The opportunity was right for him. “I started my military career as a 25 Sierra which is in satellite communications, so my first four years involved a significant amount of training. Between basic training and the time spent being schooled I hit my one year anniversary in the army before I got to my first duty station.” His job entailed calibrating satellites to ensure proper communication. This meant understanding the influence of planetary shifts and gravity on these satellites. This first job led him to his ultimate goal which was a job in the Army information technology department. “It was the day before the end of my enlistment period when the on-base recruiter called to inform me that the position I had hoped for in IT was open. I looked over to my wife and said ‘Ok, we're doing this.’” This promotion required more training before Will and his family would receive their papers for their new adventure overseas serving for the US Army in Korea.
Will and his wife, four kids, and cat packed up and moved to Korea for two years. “It was such a big and stressful move yet also exciting. It was a difficult transition, I was away training and my wife had to pack up our home in Georgia. We had to shift our mindsets a bit, everything was so unknown, but we tried to focus on the adventure aspect of the move, and the fact that it was only for two years.” It ended up being a great experience for them. The job was stressful at times but the people they met were incredible and it was a unique experience for his kids. His wife has played an important role in the success of Will’s career, and she was pivotal to the success of their time in Korea. “Military spouses are a part of it all and that’s the way we’ve always looked at it. I wouldn’t have been able to do my job without her support.”
Will’s transition out of the Army and into civilian life was made easier largely because of his military training. The job he held in Korea prepared him well for the move to civilian life, and helped him land at WEX. One of the hardest parts of leaving the military was the loss of structure which manifested in many ways that may not be obvious. “Things are done certain ways in the military, and you do your job and just that. On the outside, and in ways on the inside too, you have to push yourself. I learned about different certifications that were available to me, and I went for them. If you don't grab those opportunities for yourself, you'll never get them. Same thing goes for people here at WEX, if you want more training there are so many opportunities for further exploration.”
Another big takeaway Will has from his time in the Army was being inspired by the broad perspective held by many in the military. “For example, we’d be out on a 20 mile ruck march, we did a few of those, and it's hard physically and mentally. But you know what, though? We're not in the bushes of Vietnam, we might be trying to prepare for that but we aren’t there. We don’t have it that bad. That was a very eye-opening thing for me along the way, too. To just kind of have that perspective and appreciation for what we have now.”
Part of Will’s decision to join the military was influenced by his grandfather who was a major role model to him. He wasn’t Will's blood grandfather, Will's true grandfather had passed away when his mother was young, but this surrogate grandfather participated in Will’s life from an early age and held great influence on his thinking and on his value system. “I looked up to him. When I was young we'd go out to the local diner and get donuts and hot chocolate, we’d do stuff like that together. He was a very caring guy. It wasn’t until I was older that I started learning more about his history. He had some special mementos from his time as a mechanic in the Air Force - things like partial propellers and other artifacts were stored out in the garage. When I was a senior in high school he got sick. Before he passed away he gave me his ring that he received when he got out of the Air Force. That was a really special moment for me. The ring is a reminder of the bond we shared, and the appreciation he had for life.”
Veterans Day is a reminder to Will of his relationship with his grandfather, as well as the many other friendships he made through his time in the service. It has been special to find this community and camaraderie at WEX through the WEXVets ERG. “Our backgrounds differ but we all have this common experience which has created a great community. It is so wonderful for everyone to have the day off to remember and support the military. It says a lot to work for a company that is willing to recognize Veterans Day in this way.”
Celebrating WEXer Jessica Baumeister supporting her husband who is Active Duty in the military
Jessica Baumeister is a Solutions Specialist on the Health side of WEX, she has been at WEX since September 2021. Her husband is in active duty and serves in the Navy.
The pandemic brought Jessica to WEX when in 2020 her husband was given orders to move bases from South Carolina to Georgia. This meant packing up their home and two kids and moving to another state, again. “I was nervous about this move,’” Jessica shared. “I had a really great job in South Carolina but didn’t have the opportunity to work remotely. It was really difficult to find work even with years of experience. It was through military spouse networking groups that I heard about WEX and the tremendous opportunities they have for remote work.”
The upheaval that is a part of military life and how it impacts careers is a dilemma faced by many military spouses. Since last September, Jessica and her family have had to move again, this time to Norfolk, Virginia. “It can be scary and intimidating to pack up and move. There is a lot to sort out, from new homes to school for the kids. And on top of that, right now at least, a lot of American families cannot afford to have one parent unemployed, and finding a new job can be challenging.”
In April, Jessica’s husband was promoted and her family moved again, this time to Norfolk, Virginia. In the past her husband spent time on submarines for months at a time, but this promotion allowed him to be home most nights and travel is now only for a couple of weeks at a time.
One valuable quality of the WEXVets ERG is the community it provides for WEXers. When Jessica and her family moved she was able to rely on her peers in WEXVets for help managing the move. In turn, when another member needed to move she was able to provide this support to them as well. “I feel so fortunate that WEXVets gives us the opportunity to have these discussions with other people living similar experiences. We can talk about anything, from planning big moves to the future of veterans and military spouses at companies like WEX. Sometimes you’ll see in the chat that someone is moving to a new base and other members who have been there will send them good neighborhoods, or schools. We have such a diverse group in the ERG and it is so fun to see the different ways in which people connect with each other. I love that we get to form our own relationships with people that we don't necessarily interact with on a daily basis, especially for those of us who work remotely.”
“It is so special to have Veterans Day off. It's great to have that day to spend with our family and just be grateful. We’re all so thankful for all the things that Veterans do every day for us. And I hope that all WEXers can take some time that day and think about it. I know I’m really appreciative of it.”
This appreciation Jessica feels on Veterans Day comes in part because of her volunteer work as Ombudsman, serving 178 military families in her husband’s command. As Ombudsman, during deployment Jessica is the point of contact between military families in her husband’s unit, and their deployed relatives. “I really got to look at our experience through many different lenses. I worked closely with Veterans who had been in for a while and were just getting out, I didn’t understand how hard that was until I was in that position.”
Being a military spouse has taught Jessica what it means to be independent and strong in a way she never understood previously. “Some people, depending on the branch of the military, still have the ability to Skype or call home occasionally. For those of us on submarines, they're gone. We call it going dark. He would go dark. And I would never know if I would hear from him during the entire patrol or not. And there’s this thing we call the deployment curse. And it's funny because, even if we bring it up in the WEXVets chat, everyone knows what we’re talking about. Three bad things happen. As soon as they leave every single time. For me, the washing machine broke. Something happened with the van, our brand new van, it had to go to the repair shop for three months. And our water softener system exploded flooding the garage and yard, and this was all within two weeks of him leaving. You have to learn how to mentally brace yourself and be strong. You have to be strong for your kids, your job, and you have to be able to take care of yourself. This perspective has taught me to be patient and flexible with other people, you never know what might be going on in their lives.”
Internationally how Veterans are honored
Internationally, Veterans are honored with days like Armistice Day and Remembrance Day. Australia has two observation days; Remembrance Day on Nov.11 and Anzac Day on April 25th. The UK has an Armed Forces day celebrated on the last Saturday of June and Veterans are also recognized on Remembrance Day on November 11. Forty million poppy pins are distributed to the British public to wear for the month prior to Remembrance Day in honor of all who have served.
On this Veterans Day 2022, WEX is grateful for all who have served and gives special thanks to our WEXvets. We’re so grateful for you - - for all you do for our country and for all you do for WEX.