By Benjamin Ouwinga Nov 11, 2020
Veteran’s Day is an annual marker that allows people to stop and remember what a nation sacrifices, but for me every day is Veteran’s Day. I joined the Marine Corps in 1995 at the age of 19 and attended basic training in San Diego, California. My drill instructors were all combat veterans from the First Gulf War and having their perspective built into our training shaped my approach to military service and leadership. Upon completion of my Marine Corps service, I was preparing to reenlist when a friend told me I should try serving in Intelligence in the Navy Reserve. I completed all of the normal precursors for the background check and was selected for admission. The day I was to sign my acceptance papers was September 11, 2001. From that day through my retirement in 2018 I served in several Navy and Joint Service Intelligence positions, including a deployment to Iraq and other overseas locations.
While my role at KKR in office operations always keeps me on my toes, this year has brought additional challenges with COVID, wildfires in the state of California, and large-scale power outages. This has led me to treat the last several months similar to a military deployment or mission. Being able to adapt quickly is an important skill that my service taught me and is something that I have relied on heavily this year. During times of uncertainty, it is very important to provide continuity and the Office Operations team, in partnership with so many people globally across the firm, continue to work hard to ensure our employees are safe and healthy. In the military you learn about the totality of your decisions and I’d like to think I bring that experience to KKR. There is a phrase that I learned in the Marine Corps – adapt and overcome – and I believe that is what we have done as a firm.
While this year has certainly provided obstacles that no one saw coming, I think it is important to maintain perspective. I hope that if nothing else, today serves as a reminder to be grateful for what you have in this moment and appreciate the sacrifices others made for you. Thank you to those who have served or continue to serve.