The Wounded, the Brokers: An Investment in Bonds
Sunday, October 8, 2006
Mark Siegel's introduction to the world of Army veterans began casually enough. He was reading a Georgetown University alumni newsletter about a student who had worked with injured soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
Siegel, a vice president at Merrill Lynch in downtown Washington, said the article inspired him to see if there was a way he could help the service personnel returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. That led to the creation of an informal group of stockbrokers and veterans who bonded over basketball and dinner.
Along the way, the group has grown. The brokers have helped the healing soldiers with their transition from a combat zone while satisfying the brokers' desire to volunteer.
"I had a service void," said Siegel, 38, of Bethesda. "I have a family, and I'm limited with what I can do. I wanted to be able to do something for these guys."
Instead of going to happy hour after work, 10 Merrill Lynch brokers from the downtown branch met up with the Walter Reed patients at Clyde's restaurant and then at Georgetown basketball games. There, the MBAs in designer suits befriended more than a dozen veterans, many of whom showed up on crutches or in wheelchairs.
At first, said Merrill Lynch financial adviser Patrick Martin, "we didn't know how to start a conversation. I was shocked at how young they were, but then I realized that we were gravitating towards similar interests."
The group went to six games last season, each preceded by dinner at the Clyde's near Verizon Center. The brokers treated.
In March, the patients were honored at half-time during Georgetown's victory over Syracuse.
One veteran is Spec. James Stuck of the 101st Airborne Division, who lost his right leg below the knee when a roadside bomb exploded as he drove a Humvee near his base in Kirkuk, Iraq, in December.
In the months after he was wounded, Stuck, 22, from New Kensington, Pa., barely ate. Like many veterans who are amputees, the emotional readjustment can be as daunting as the physical challenges. Patients at Walter Reed undergo physical and occupational therapy, including cooking and household chores.
Stuck said his real recovery began when he started eating and socializing with strangers. After countless meals with the Merrill Lynch brokers, Stuck regained his appetite, once ordering three entrees for dinner.
"I've eaten so many meals with these guys, I've lost track," he said.