This is ThinkAdvisor’s seventh version of the Advisors Who Serve(d) compilation, and this year we highlight the stories, told in their own words, of 11 veterans in the advisory world.
Advisors Who Serve(d) is just that: Financial advisors who have served or are serving in the military. Each of our compilations have debuted over Memorial Day weekend and been repeated on July 4th and Veterans Day. We were reminded, though, in 2017 by a Navy vet that Memorial Day is meant for those who have died in battle not for those who have served and are still alive or for those still serving, which is reserved for Veterans Day and Armed Forces Day, respectively.
ThinkAdvisor initially chose Memorial Day because it’s when most of America focuses on the military and therefore would give the extra attention to what we feel is an important compilation of stories.
Name: David Balmer
Title/Company: Financial Advisor / Edward Jones
Branch: US Air Force
Rank held at beginning of service and at end: 2nd Lt, Currently a Major
Service Dates: 1996 to Present
Work you did: F-22 Pilot, F-16 Pilot
Brief story that stands out from your service time: I am currently a Financial Advisor and an Air Force Reservist and I am so grateful for the opportunity to serve in both capacities. Just two weeks ago I was blessed to become the 57th person to accumulate 1,000 flying hours in the F-22. I flew the sortie with a friend of 8 years who reached the milestone on the same day. It was awesome to share that with him but the best part was when we returned to base.
As I flew over the runway, I could see my three little boys watching Daddy fly “his big jet” as they say. When I landed and taxied into the hangar, the three of them were there with their big “bunny ears” on (hearing protection) and they were literally jumping up and down with excitement. As I climbed down the ladder, they rushed to the jet and gave me a bear hug. It was an amazing moment and a wonderful way to celebrate the last 17 years of flying fighter jets. I am grateful for the opportunities I have been given and I hope to leave a legacy of service to my boys.
Name: Bruce T. Brown
Title/Company: Registered Principal, OSJ / Brown & Associates Investment Services
Branch: US Army
Rank held at beginning of service and at end: 2nd Lieutenant / Lt. Colonel
Service Dates: 1975-1995
Work you did: Infantry Officer for 3 years, Personnel Officer for 17 years
Brief story that stands out from your service time: Very proud to have served 7 of the last 8 years of service with the 82nd Airborne Division and XVIII Airborne Corps during Operation Golden Pheasant (Honduras), Operation Just Cause (Panama), Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm, and the Liberation of Haiti.
Name: Burton Brown
Title/Company: CFP/Partner / Atomi Financial Group, Inc.
Branch: US Marine Corps/US Army Reserve
Rank held at beginning of service and at end: Private – Staff Sergeant
Service Dates: 1995-2004
Work you did: Infantry Rifleman, Marine Security Guard (Embassy Duty), Civil Affairs Operative
Brief story that stands out from your service time: I’m a Marine first and foremost. I served in 1/7, 2/7, and Marine Security Guard Det Hanoi while on Active Duty. I served with the 490th Civil Affairs Bn., in both Kosovo and OIF 1. As a Civil Affairs Operator I supported the Polish/Ukrainian Bn, 10th Mountain, 3rd ID, 101st Airborne while in Kosovo.
While in Iraq I supported USASOC, 1st Marine Division, 2/70th Armor, 3 ID, 3rd ACR, 1st CAV, 1st Armor. My service allowed me to visit 12 countries, participate in 2 conflicts, and lead Marines and Soldiers. It was an awesome responsibility and experience. I still serve leading the South Coast Det #022, Marine Corps League. Having been in the Financial Services during the ’08-’09 crisis, I often joke that I’m a survivor of three wars. I’m truly blessed in life by doing what I love to do; serving others and helping my community.
Name: Rene Bruer
Title/Company: Co-CEO and Financial Advisor/ Smith Bruer Advisors
Branch: US Marine Corps
Rank held at beginning of service and at end: Private and Corporal
Service Dates: 1997- 2001
Work you did: Infantry and Administration
Brief story that stands out from your service time: I had many wonderful leaders in the Marine Corps. What I admired most about my mentor, Master Sgt. Richard St. Amour, was that he led by example. He was a “Marine’s Marine” who worked hard and took care of his family. On top of all of that, he was going to graduate school at night. That stuck with me and motivated me to pursue my goals after the Marine Corps with the same commitment and fervor.
— Check out our special Advisors Who Serve(d) page to read more stories by advisor-veterans.
Name: James Cote
Title/Company: Financial Advisor / Penn Mutual’s Concord Wealth Management
Branch: US Marine Corps USMC
Rank held at beginning of service and at end: Private at Parris Island, and retired as a First Sergeant (E8)
Service Dates: 1975-1995
Work you did: A variety of roles over the years: Administration, Recruiting, General Staff, Training Instructor for an Infantry Regiment, and Infantry First Sergeant
Brief story that stands out from your service time: My upbringing was in a very closed environment of a French Canadian/Irish household in Massachusetts. Joining the Marines opened my eyes to the world. From day one I was meeting and working with other Americans from all over the country and from many ethnicities and demographics. The years I spent in the Marines Corps are irreplaceable and highlighted by the tragedy of the 1983 Beirut bombing of the Marine Barracks. Hundreds of Marines were killed and injured and we mobilized all over the world to deliver comfort to our Marine families.
My role as a Casualty Notification Officer in Massachusetts allowed me to go to my hometown and personalize a national tragedy. My passion to serve also runs in the family. My daughter, Diane, graduated 32nd out of 1,200 classmates at the Naval Academy, class of 2007, and served as a Nuclear Power Engineer on the USS Enterprise. It was one of two Navy aircraft carriers in the Arabian Sea when Bin Laden was captured. In addition to Diane, I also have three sons who served, Matthew in the Marines, and Martin and Nico, in the Massachusetts National Guard.
Name: Melissa Estrada
Title/Company: Investment Advisor / Miracle Mile Advisors
Branch: US Marine Corps
Rank held at beginning of service and at end: PFC – Sergeant
Service Dates: 2002- 2008
Work you did: Administrative