USMC Veteran John Cullen, a Vietnam Veteran, received two Purple Hearts during his service but kept his combat experiences to himself. He never even talked about his past to his wife or three children until 25 weeks ago when he came to VA’s Manhattan campus to be treated for PTSD. Once at VA, his therapist urged him to be more open about his experiences with friends, family and others he meets. Cullen is now talking about memories of service at a base Southwest of Danang, Vietnam. He’s dealing with memories like “calling in a request for napalm to stop the enemy advancing less than a football field away.”
“I never thought we would live," recalled Cullen, who was medi-vaced to Japan and then transported to the VA’s Community Living Center at St. Albans, Queens. The odds that he would recover were not high and he was given Last Rites. But Cullen beat the odds.
The story of how Cullen became a business owner is like a page-turning bestseller or a movie about moxie, rage and a hero with entrepreneurial savvy and unscrupulous villains all set in Manhattan. Not long after his surprising recovery, Cullen took on a job in construction, but was wooed away - with the promise of a company car - to a company that specialized in the management of vending machines, video games, pool tables and jukeboxes.
Starting out as a driver, Cullen proved himself trustworthy in a business fraught with employees who stole from the vending machines. Another challenge was protecting vending machine collections from being hijacked, something Cullen and another armed employee did by going along on the collection routes. Over time, Cullen co-managed the company. That is until he realized the owner was embezzling the company assets. “I was enraged. I was also very scared, but in 6 months I knew I would clean his clock, “ said Cullen. Forced out by his former boss in 1992, Cullen built his own firm taking on all of the clients he had served in the past.
Does he feel pride in his business, Manhattan Amusements? “Of course,” he said. Would he encourage others to go into business? “Absolutely. But probably not the way I did it. It’s not a walk in the park, but it’s better than working for someone else,” he said.
Veterans interested in exploring the idea of starting a business may be interested in attending an event hosted by Veterans Affairs event on August 15-18th, 2011, at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans, Louisiana being assisted by Halfaker and Associates LLC. The largest nationwide conference of its kind, the National Veteran Small Business Conference provides Veteran-Owned and Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Businesses (VOSBs and SDVOSBs) an opportunity to learn, network and market their businesses. For more information: http://www.nationalveteransconference.com/ <http://www.nationalveteransconference.com/>