By: Fred Wellman, ScoutComms Founder and CEO
I had just dropped my kids off at daycare and when I flipped on the radio to hear a plane had hit one of the Twin Towers. Just as I started to wonder what could have caused that, the DJs yelled that a second plane had exploded into the other tower. I knew what was happening immediately and rushed home to flip on the television.
My wife Crystal was a flight attendant for Delta Airlines at the time, but was fortunately home that day between trips. I was less than a year out of having left the active Army and had joined the Reserves in Atlanta. I had a good job and was running for mayor of Peachtree City, Georgia. As it turns out, I was winning.
We sat on the bed and watched it all unfold. She asked if I had any idea who would do something like that. I said, “Osama Bin Laden.” She asked if there would be a war. I said, “yes.” She asked if I wanted to go fight. I said, “yes.” She said, “I support whatever you want to do. You’re a soldier.”
I called my Reserve unit’s Executive Officer. He was getting ready to call me since they were reaching out to everyone who hadn’t completed their Annual Training yet. I spent the summer running for mayor and hadn’t completed it. I got the call that night, at 11:30 p.m., to report the next day. I didn’t take the uniform off for more than eight years and three Iraq tours later.
You are reading this blog post because of 9/11. ScoutComms exists because what happened that day. While in Iraq, I started working with local civilians and my old political campaign friends were kind enough to send us supplies for the clinic and schools we were building. The local paper picked it up, the local Fox News channel too, then I did a July 4th interview with CNN and my division commander, David Petraeus, figured out I could speak on TV without making a fool of myself.
A few months later, I was named the Public Affairs Officer for the famed 101st Airborne Division. A year after that, I was deployed to Iraq to eventually serve as Generals Petraeus and Dempsey’s spokesman. Then on to Harvard, and the Pentagon and finally one more trip to Baghdad before retiring.
Like so many of my fellow veterans, after leaving the military I found myself working without purpose. I earned a living but it was aimless. When I found myself unemployed I launched ScoutComms to be a different kind of public relations firm – one that understood the unique community of veterans, military members, and their families that has grown out of 9/11.
Here we are. A few months ago ScoutComms was listed by O’Dwyer’s PR as the sixth fastest growing PR firm in the country last year. We have been recognized as a Best for the World B Corp and a slew of other recognitions, while working with the top companies and nonprofits in the world and hiring the most incredibly talented and dedicated staff in the sector who work hard for this community and give of themselves. Even as I write this, our COO Brian Wagner is deploying with the Navy Reserves to support the ongoing Global War on Terror.
Our clients have donated, spent and executed programs for veterans and military families worth well over $500 million in dollars and impact, and continue to do more as they have demonstrated in the wake of Hurricane Harvey last week.
That dark day brought us together. It woke up a nation to the service and sacrifice of our military. We are still fighting that war, sadly. But, out of darkness comes light. Out of that horror has emerged this small firm and nonprofits like Team Rubicon, which has thousands of veterans conducting disaster relief operations in Texas and now Florida. Our client Student Veterans of America, which has led the charge to pass the most generous GI Bill in history, is leading over a million post-9/11 veterans to go to college. Its pushed our longest client The Home Depot Foundation, to invest $250 million in veterans housing and relief including over a million spent just in the last two weeks for Harvey relief. It’s pushed the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to create and run the incredible efforts of our client Hiring Our Heroes to get thousands of veterans, their spouses and caregivers quality jobs.
I could write an entire blog just covering the incredible impact of the almost two-dozen active clients of ScoutComms whom we are daily helping to make a difference in our nation.
So while we rightly remember 9/11 with sadness, I find myself looking at it with hope as well. Out of that darkness and smoke has emerged purpose and courage. We are honored to be one small candle of that light and we will continue to honor that legacy every day here at ScoutComms. The legacy of 9/11 shouldn’t be sorrow, and it isn’t for us.