Thursday, February 1, 2018

Bryan Jacobs, Chef & Founder of Vets2Success, Tells His Story

Bryan & Kevin Jacobs  - The Beginning

It was nothing like any movie you had seen, there was nothing that truly compared to what was to come. Two boys, with nothing more than the love of their country in their hearts and they swore an oath like many others that came before them. It was an honor to serve, it was even more of an honor to serve together. Not many since the Sullivan brothers had done it, so knowing that one of us could make the ultimate sacrifice for our country we were ready as boys could be.

January 2003 brought more than we could have anticipated - long training, poor chow, and a fly problem that only existed in movies with mummies, and an endless supply of sand and sunshine without a drop of water or a bikini in sight. We had not been told when or why, but we knew the Marine Corps was shipping us halfway around the world to deliver a singing telegram. We knew something was up when they made an over-the-top effort for every brother that was serving in the tip of the spear to spend a day with each other. Seven days later it all made sense, the reality of war was present, and boys became men as shots of anger raged the quiet world that existed, nothing was the same, especially us.

Kevin - Not all wounds are visible

Not every Marine, Solider, or service member has a wound for the world to see, many have been wounded beyond return in the trauma’s they have lived and seen. It had been years since the sounds of war, and the experiences still lived fresh in his mind. Often tears of sadness of not knowing why you have made it, and questioning the morals of right and wrong and the decisions you had to make and the lives you had to lose. 

The trails of adjustment and disbelief of the reality that had set in is sometimes more than most can bear. Many can’t believe the struggle that exists in finding a place amongst a society that you swore an oath to defend till death. We all signed a blank check for our lives not knowing if we would truly cash it in. Those who don’t cash in must pay in some way, whether it be with the memories they must drink away, or find a magic pill to subside the demons. Some have that fight, but for Kevin, his loss was on May 27th, 2014.

Pain Can Be Powerful

The loss was more than I thought I could bear, I too had been dealing with horrific thoughts of what was and lived with demons of my own, but now I lived with a burden I had never thought I would have to carry on my shoulders. I was my brother’s keeper ... I was supposed to be all he looked up to, I was his big brother. I now had to take into consideration a life that had been lost, but a legacy that could be lived. I decided to make a difference in those lives that needed a difference - not a hand out, but a hand up. 

I started a program to celebrate the legacy of my brother, one that would reflect his needs and his hopes, called Vet2Chef. All chefs pictured here are veterans, all had been down a road longer than they had ever imagined they would travel in their post military careers. This first set of lives that changed showed me a reason for living and, it gave me the reason to continue living. I now had purpose with a passion. All I had ever known was cooking. Food saved my life in so many ways. It challenged my mind, it consumed my every day, focusing my mind on so many things other than the trauma I lived and the burdens I carried.

Something to Believe In

Every life can be given a purpose, but many must find the passion behind the purpose. Many veterans miss the basis of what military service stood for. They leave the military not quite understanding why they don’t fit, and their search begins. Many of us are looking for the things that made the military home, camaraderie, brotherhood, support, team, courage, commitment and a sense of belonging to something bigger than life itself. That search can be relentless, that search can be never-ending in some cases, and tragic more often than necessary. 

Every branch of service is represented here, and all understand these simple yet harsh realities that we face. Who am I is, what am I, who have I become, who will I become, these are all questions that are asked daily of veteran. We can’t seem to always find the answer to these questions especially by ourselves. It takes a team, a mission, a focus and a dedication to excellence to see change, with this a life can be changed. Each of us has the tools to paint the picture our desires have and to live, but many of us need support to help paint that picture. Some use a canvas, some sand, others clay ... we use food.

Build It

The most amazing thing in the world is when people see your dream, they feel it, the can see it, experience it, and they can help make a difference in their own way. Everything this is comes from the love of so many, pictured here:  USF-SM faculty (left) and the cofounder of Vets2Chefs Marine Corp Veteran and Applebee’s Founder Burton “Skip” Sack (on right). 

This program represents a community that wants better for their veterans, the people who make this happen are people who believe in change. Many of our supporters have never served this country and are just loyal patriots much like all those who have served. We are blessed by so many community partners its unreal, together we are making a difference. The change that is evident comes from all the support this community provides, they help support discharge upgrades, living situations, emotional support, food, and direction.

Continue to Serve 

Many veterans are looking for a reason to serve, many can’t turn off what is still on, they must find a way to use it. Having a focus, backed by passion and purpose, can change the way a mind is used and the way it will progress. I have seen so many lives touched in so many ways by all the support and effort each of these veterans bring to the table. Many often say they never had a desire to cook nor do they understand how to cook in general, but all find a passion in their own way. 

Each of these veterans have a mission ... some are focused on becoming a chef and some are focused on having a stepping stone to the next level of life. I can honestly say my life is touched more by all they accomplish. Though I have seen and done so much, I think the biggest change for me is the healing I get from seeing the success of each of my students. Each of them has shown a desire for something you cannot put words on. They yet again have raised their hands and swore an oath, one that they take upon themselves to support, and help their new brothers and sisters on a new mission in finding a true meaning and purpose in life again.

New War New Mission

It has been one of the most amazing things to see others become inspired by change. Pictured here is a Vietnam brother who spent multiple tours in Vietnam and now on his own has found a new reason to give back. Chef John is an amazing person with more desire to see change than most can wish to see in their whole lives. Chef John has an amazing story, one that has to be heard, he says how much he looks up to us but he inspires me to move forward in a bigger dream. Chef John is single handedly planning and supporting our newest addition to our original, Vet2Baker. It takes special people like him and those yet to join us to make a bigger difference in the lives and communities that we live in.

Change is Coming

With our fifth class finishing we are proud to announce a change is coming, veterans are finding a purpose again, a new team, a new mission, with all the purpose behind them. They are clearing the way for a new breed of opportunities to be opened. With their continued success we will together forge new empires in the food and brew industry. They have given so much for the freedoms we enjoy. Now we can give so much in return by giving them a new opportunity in the communities they love to live in.

The road to home isn’t paved in gold and opportunity when we leave the service, we often find ourselves back in the same place we initially tried to get away from. It takes a lot to decide in your life you need support. It takes a lot to once have represented something so big, to becoming something you don’t even recognize in the mirror. 

Together we can make a difference in the lives of those whom have given us all the freedoms we enjoy. Stand with us in making change, stand with us as we pave the road of success.

This is Week 4 of Artists Tell Their Stories. Thank you for reading and sharing Bryan’s story today. To connect with Bryan and his program, Vets2Success, please visit the following links: 

Instagram: Vets2Success 

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