Tony Perkins, 57
General manager of inspection services, ACV
Military branch: Marines
About 12 years ago, Tony Perkins was sitting in an airport restaurant, waiting out a weather delay, when he heard a group of young veterans talking about their return from Afghanistan.
“I heard them talking about how they were nervous about coming home,” said Perkins, general manager of inspection services at ACV, adding that the vets were unsure of how people would treat them.
Perkins, a Marine Corps veteran, bought them a round of beers and chatted with them to better understand what they were worried about with returning to civilian life. “And it motivated me,” he said.
Soon after, Perkins coincidentally met Ryan Miller, who had just founded Hunters Helping Heroes, which puts together excursions for young veterans who had recently served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Perkins immediately got involved and solicited local businesses to support an event for the organization. After the first event, he received a thank-you letter from a young Army major who had just completed his seventh combat tour. The soldier wrote that the experience gave him a kind of camaraderie that he had been lacking in civilian life.
“It wasn’t that big of a deal, right?” Perkins said of the event. “But it was for him.”
After that, Miller and Perkins decided to do the events regularly. Hunters Helping Heroes has grown to hosting hundreds of hunting, fishing and other events spanning the globe — everywhere from Alaska to New Zealand.
The mission of Hunters Helping Heroes is to show the soldiers gratitude for their service, and to provide a place for young veterans and others to meet and share stories. The organization also wants to develop a social network the soldiers can leverage once they separate from the military.
Meanwhile, Perkins sees his own experience in the Marines as having fostered valuable skills for his career. For example, every Marine is expected to know how to do the work of the rank both above and below him or her.
It’s led Perkins to be out in the field for ACV, doing vehicle inspections himself and being involved with pilot groups when new programs are being rolled out.
“It creates just so much more credibility to you as a leader,” he said.
Perkins would highly recommend hiring veterans, considering they’re process-oriented and have to be tech-savvy and meet certain academic requirements to be in the U.S. military.
Said Perkins, “Veterans for us make phenomenal employees.”
— David Muller