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9 Successful Veterans in American Industry

Military service emphasizes personal discipline, time management, and efficiency. With these qualities, a number of successful veterans have become captains of industry. 


1. Johnson & Johnson

A West Point graduate and former Ranger, Alex Gorsky serves as the CEO and chairman of the board of directors.  

Under his leadership, the 132-year old company – which manufactures baby products to medical devices – continues to be one of the world’s exceptional corporations.  

2. Foot Locker

Before retiring as chairman and CEO in 2014, Ken Hicks often walked into one of his stores to see how things are going.

After graduation from West Point in 1974, he served as an artillery officer in Korea.  He later pursued a business degree at Harvard and then entered the business world.

“I learned a heck of a lot in the Army about people and how to lead.” 

3. FedEx

The CEO of FedEx, Frederick Smith, began life on crutches.

He defeated his aliment, played sports in high school and then enlisted in the Marines.  He served two tours in Vietnam, one as an infantryman and another as a pilot. 

He is referred to as “The Father of Overnight Delivery.” 

4. Lockheed Martin

Robert Steven, a former Marine, was the CEO of this global aerospace, defense, security and advanced technologies companies until his retirement in 2012.

During a speech in 2010 he said, “I learned about leadership when I was 18-years-old and first introduced to the United States Marine Corps…” 

“…where leadership is taught … every minute and every day, in every action, every word, every deed, and every circumstance.”


Josue Robles, Jr., former CEO and president of the Texas-based Fortune 500 company, began his 28-year career in the Army with service in Korea, Vietnam, Germany and Spain.

While on active duty in 1990, he served on the board of USAA’s military financial services.  Retiring as a Major General in 1994, he took over as CEO in 2007.

“We know what it means to serve,” he said in a 2013 interview. 

6. McDonald’s

Before joining the Navy in 1961, James Skinner worked at a McDonald’s.  After a decade of service – to include two tours during the Vietnam War – he interviewed for a job as a manager trainee at another McDonald’s.

Forty-one years later he stepped down as CEO in 2012 after placing McDonald’s on a sound financial footing.

7. Casey’s General Stores

Robert Myer’s goal in 1988, after retiring from the Army as a lieutenant colonel, was to make enough money to offset his retired pay versus his active duty pay.

He took up the helm of Casey’s General Stores, whose stock increased fivefold in the decade before he retired. Casey’s is a popular chain of convenience stores in the Midwest, known especially for their pizza delivery. 

“I never expected to be CEO,” he said during a 2016 interview.

“I had the organizational background and skills that I acquired in the military that allowed me to do a bunch of different things.” 

8. Proctor & Gamble

When he was 11, Robert McDonald wrote his congressman asking for an appointment to West Point.

He eventually received an appointment, retiring in 1980. He soon went to work for Proctor & Gamble.

“If you gonna be in the Army, go into the infantry,” he said in a 2013 interview.  “If you’ve going to be in marketing, work for P&G. You don’t do things halfway.” 


Jason McCarthy, founder and CEO, claims that GORUCK is an improbable story of business success.

A former Special Forces soldier who served in Iraq and West Africa, he took his experiences as a soldier and hardwired them into his company, its best-selling product line, and its grassroots public relations machine, the very popular GORUCK challenge series.

“My background is in Special Forces, which gave me the skills to understand the difference between good gear and bad gear.” 


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