This is ThinkAdvisor’s annual version of the Advisors Who Serve(d) compilation, and this year we highlight the stories, told in their own words, of 14 veterans in the advisory world. You may recognize some of the advisors as they were also on Memorial Day’s version; for this version we added three new advisors.
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. ThinkAdvisor understands that Memorial Day is meant for those who have died in battle serving in the military not just for anyone who has served, which is Veterans Day, or for those actively serving, Armed Forces Day.
ThinkAdvisor initially chose Memorial Day because it’s when most Americans focus on the military and therefore would give the extra attention to what we feel is an important compilation of stories.
(Check out our Advisors Who Serve(d) page to read stories by advisors from previous years.)
Name: Sheri Rhoades
Title/Company: Vice President, Penn Mutual Insurance Company
Branch: US Navy
Rank held at beginning of service and at end: Yeoman 1st Class
Service Dates: 1981 – 1989
Work you did: Yeoman, Administrative position leading business offices
Brief story that stands out from your service time: The story that stands out most profoundly happened during boot camp. The barracks were just as you would see in the movies, two rows of metal bunk beds housing 80 females. Our days were full of activities that required us to be away from the barracks most of the time, and yet keeping the barracks perfectly neat was critical. Before leaving each morning we would be inspected to ensure everything was in order.
One day after a particularly long day we returned to the barracks to find that everything in the room had been tossed about. Clothing, sheets, pillows, mattresses … everything. It was total chaos. Our leaders (Company Commanders) were furious and let us know that the place must be put back together in 2 hours. And they would be back to inspect. I still remember the feeling: Panic. How could we possibly clean this up in that amount of time?
At this point the natural leaders begin to emerge coming up with recommendations of how to tackle the overwhelming situation. Within 30 minutes we had a system and the group worked together to execute the plan, adjusting the plan when necessary. The approach we took was assigning “squads” to a particular item. One grabbed all the mattresses and returned them to the bed. One grabbed all the shirts and threw them into one big pile. As squads finished their work they would join others to finish their task. At the end there was such a sense of pride that we were able to tackle the mess, pass the inspection, and really began to ACT like a team.
The lesson our leaders wanted us to learn was about teamwork, and this exercise obviously accomplished that, including the mindset necessary to tackle big problems. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
Name: Cale P. Smith
Title/Company: Managing Partner, Penn Mutual South
Branch: US Army, Louisiana National Guard
Rank held at beginning of service and at end: E1 Private to E5 Sergeant
Service Dates: 1989 – 2003
Work you did: Combat Medic, Retention NCO
Brief story that stands out from your service time: I felt a powerful sense of pride while serving and defending our country during my Desert Storm service, but one of my favorite memories was serving my local community. While facing an oncoming Category 5 hurricane in 1994, my National Guard unit was tasked with evacuating nursing homes in South Louisiana’s flood prone areas. Loading elderly citizens into a deuce and a half, in their wheelchairs and hospital beds, and offering strength and security to calm their anxieties, I have never felt more of a service to the elder generation.
Name: James R. Cote
Title/Company: Financial Advisor, Concord Wealth Management
Branch: US Marines
Rank held at beginning of service and at end: Entered in 1975 as a Private, and left in 1995 as a First Sergeant
Service Dates: 1975 – 1995
Work you did: First Sergeant/Senior Staff Roles
Brief story that stands out from your service time: My story involves my introduction to new types of food. Entering the Marines through Parris Island I was about to experience changes in my dining experience. A couple of highlights as I adapted to my new meal options.
First, involved eating a food from another part of the US. Coming from the Northeast in 1975 we had an extremely limited experience with Mexican foods. Leaving the chow hall one day, a fellow recruit asked if me if I was unusually hungry that day; responding “No, why.” I was surprised to learn what a Tamale was, and then secondly that these Tamales were wrapped within wax paper. Down it went, paper and all. My 2nd experience in the chow hall was a few weeks later when we were served up some fried food. The same recruit, obviously amused by my eating style asked again after a fried meal if we were extra hungry. I replied negative, and this time I was surprised to learn I had eaten the tail of the fried shrimp. Having never had this type of fried food, I just ate everything in sight. I learned to ask before eating if I had a question of what was on the plate.
Name: Audree L. Begay, CFP
Title/Company: Private Wealth Advisor / Ameriprise Financial
Branch: US Army
Rank held at beginning of service and at end: Private 1st Class, ended as 1st Lieutenant
Service Dates: 1993 – 1999
Work you did: Communications specialist for 200
Brief story that stands out from your service time: One of my fondest memories was during a field exercise as a new soldier, our entire field hospital loaded up and drove from Fort Hood, Texas to Fort Polk, Louisiana, to perform a mock wartime field simulation. During the convoy to our destination, as we would pass through many small towns on the way, I could not help being so proud to serve our country, as children and adults of all ages would line the streets as we drove past just to wave at us and show their pride in our country and our service. Serving as an inspiration to others to protect and serve our country is something I will never forget.
Name: Brandon Lovell
Title/Company: Financial Advisor / Edward Jones
Branch: US Navy Reserve
Rank held at beginning of service and at end: Fireman Recruit – Chief Petty Officer (current)
Service Dates: 2001 – Present
Work you did: Amphibious Construction Battalion – One, Torpedo Weapons Retriever 821, USS San Jacinto, Costal Riverine Squadron, Small Boat Detachment-USNS Trenton
Brief story that stands out from your service time: . I am currently a financial advisor and Navy reservist, and it has been an honor to serve in both capacities. Just three months ago, I returned from an eleven-month overseas deployment.
At the end of 2017, I received a phone call at my office from the Navy informing me that I was being “involuntarily recalled” to active duty for a year-long deployment overseas. The emotions started flooding in. Before transferring to the Navy Reserve I completed 10 years of active duty and a number of deployments, but this time it was different. How would my wife and kids react? What would my clients think? How would my firm and my branch office administrator handle the news, and how would they operate the branch over the next year without me?
However, I knew that this is why I was here as a member of the armed services — to answer the call to serve when called upon, as so many have done before me. The next year was one of the most difficult years in my life, as I left behind a business, my wife, and my four kids. However, it was also one of the most rewarding experiences in my life. My firm, my clients, and friends supported my family and I in so many ways. It was amazing to see the love and support that I received from all of them while I was gone. It reaffirmed my love for both of these careers. Additionally, I was honored to lead an amazing group of sailors into harm’s way, and successfully carry out the missions our nation asked of us. I am forever grateful, to all the people at my firm, and my clients who made this past year a success. It has made me a better Leader, Financial Advisor, Husband and Father.
Name: Carl Kunhardt
Title/Company: Wealth Advisor / Quest Capital Management, Inc.
Branch: US Marines
Rank held at beginning of service and at end: Private (E-1). Major (O-4)
Service Dates: 1977 – 2003
Work you did: Attack Helicopter Commander, Forward Air Controller, Air Traffic Controller
Brief story that stands out from your service time: In 1987, my FAC team was heli-dropped at the summit of an Italian forest to control supporting air. At the conclusion, we force marched to battalion command post, about 1 mile (direct line of site). In reality, it turned about to be closer to 5-6 miles because of 2-3 additional summits between us and command post. The entire route was through thorn briars!