Returning veterans going into business can serve military in a different way

NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - Photographs reflect Jason Bradford's first career as a successful officer in the U.S. Marines. The Nacogdoches resident, originally from Jacksonville enlisted just over ten years ago. "From there I was accepted into the Meritorious Commission Program and was actually medically retired in 2004 as a captain."

Bradford committed to two combat tours. Today the husband and father of two is showing the same commitment in civilian life. One year ago, almost to the day, Bradford purchased Nacogdoches Sheet Metal and Plumbing, which also markets air conditioners.  It's a successful business that he wants to keep that way, even during rocky economic times. His mission is to serve the military in a different capacity. "I do have a large interest in trying to do military contracts or just governmental contracts," expressed Bradford.

And the contracts are out there according to information provided at the Deep East Texas Contracting Opportunities Conference (DETCOC) going on through Thursday at Stephen F Austin State University. "Just in the Texas area we have a number of defense contractors working in NASA working on prime contracts worth billions of dollars," shared Manny Guerrero, assistant in SFA's Purchasing Department. Procurement specialists from SFA and Angelina College talk about how bidding preferences go to the service-disabled veteran. Pamphlets on new and improved government assistance programs show recent veterans that they're not forgotten.

"It's also a new mind set because you have so many veterans who are coming out of the military who are disabled," said Bradford. "It's definitely opened the eye of a lot of government officials to try to lend a helping hand to them."

Politicians before also saw a need to help veterans establish a successful civilian job. Former Congressman Charles Wilson was known for matching East Texas companies with lucrative government contracts. In appreciation, DETCOC has gained Wilson's approval to launch the Charlie Wilson Recognition Award. On Thursday, it will be announced to prime contractors. The first winner will be named at next year's conference. All this effort might be just enough to put a veteran, like Bradford, on the road to success.

DETCOC continues on Thursday as the procurement information focus expands to small, minority, women and veteran business owners. The first presentation is at 9:00 a.m. at SFA Baker Patillo Student Center.