On the day I was born, my father was at war in Vietnam. I spent enough of my childhood on U.S. Army bases during his 20-year career in the military to convince me I didn’t want to join the service, but forever grateful for all who do.
Recently, I was honored and thrilled to see so many E2 member veterans — Marines, Army, Navy, Air Force — at the Veterans Advanced Energy Summit in Chicago (which E2’s Midwest Chapter helped sponsor). I’m always energized by these genuine patriots who continue to serve our country by founding, funding and operating businesses that are moving America off of its addiction to fossil energy and toward a more secure future powered by home-grown clean energy.
Some of E2’s very first work around clean energy started when we brought together veterans and businesspeople to successfully stop Congress from gutting the Defense Department’s budget for renewable energy and low carbon fuels.
The DoD, of course, pioneered so many innovations that dramatically reshaped our economy and our well-being — from medical technology to communications. Much like it did with those market-moving transitions, the military’s forward-looking leadership in clean energy, has spurred innovation, attracted investments, sped deployment, and ultimately reduced energy costs for consumers and businesses alike.
As I pointed out to conference attendees, veterans today make up about 10 percent of the clean energy workforce, according to E2’s Clean Jobs America report. That’s nearly double the nationwide percentage of veterans in the U.S. workforce — including the fossil fuel industry.
These workers include Army vets like summit speaker Jon Gensler, who grew up in coal country in West Virginia and now owns an energy efficiency company in Nashville; former Navy SEAL Troy Van Beek, who with wife Amy own a solar company in Iowa; and Marines like Gen. John Castellaw, who retired to the family farm in Tennessee to start a precision ag company that uses drones to help farmers use fertilizer, seed, and water more sustainably.
“It’s good for our economy, good for our environment and good for our national security,” said retired Vice Adm. Denny McGinn in his opening speech at the Chicago summit pointing to why so many veterans support and work in clean energy.
At E2, we’re proud and grateful to have these veterans and many more as our members. And we should all be proud and grateful for how they and so many others continue to serve our country in new ways, long after their military service ended.