I am a father, a decorated combat veteran, a former CIA case officer, a successful entrepreneur and business leader. I am all of these things because I was blessed to be born in the freest nation in the world – a nation founded on the principle of liberty and free market capitalism, and built on the ideals of hard work and perseverance. These ideals have guided me my entire life.
I grew up in a poor neighborhood in South Tampa and my mom worked two jobs to make ends meet. My father was absent most of my childhood. We didn’t have much, and at times, I was the primary caregiver for my two little brothers and my younger sister. My mom enrolled us in the free lunch program and I often skipped lunch to avoid the humiliation of taking a hand out. It was probably the first time I really understood what it meant to be poor – but never without hope. When I was 13, I got my first job washing dishes in the cafeteria at Tampa Electric. I attended English and Math class then rode the city bus from Port Tampa to the TECO headquarters where I worked the rest of the day before taking the bus back home. I remember scraping food into an awful smelling garbage can under scalding hot water and thinking, “there’s got to be a better way to help my family.”
It was with the guidance of a mentor that I realized an education was my only way out of what was otherwise destined to be a life of poverty. I buckled down and earned an Army ROTC Scholarship to the University of Tampa. It was there on the UT campus that I developed an interest in America’s role in the world – from global security to prosperity and freedom – I realized that the world’s fate stands on the shoulders of each and every hard-working American, especially those who choose to serve our country. It was the era of Ronald Reagan and we were locked in an ideological struggle and cold war with the Soviet Union. President Reagan’s call to serve our nation had a lasting impression on me and I was eager to join the military after graduation.
I was commissioned as an Infantry Officer in the U.S. Army and shipped off to Ft Benning, Georgia. By then the Soviet empire had collapsed, but new threats were emerging. I went on to serve as a rifle platoon leader with the 101st Airborne Division during Operation Desert Storm and, upon promotion to Captain, I volunteered for a transfer to the U.S. Army Special Forces branch. After earning my Green Beret, I commanded a Special Forces A-team in a counterterrorism role in East Asia.
In 1997 I resigned my commission and accepted a position with the CIA to join the fight in the new emerging threat that would later become America’s global war on terrorism. I completed two years of Arabic studies and I arrived in my first assignment in the Middle East just prior to September 11, 2001 where I went on to serve in various assignments in the Middle East and North Africa.
And because life hands us curve balls sometimes, I was also raising my two oldest daughters on my own as a single father for about six years. THEY were daily reminders of why we fight. THEY were the reward for all the hard work and perseverance.
THEY were also the driving force behind moving on and exploring new ways to serve.
I saw combat one last time as a para-military officer in the CIA supporting the United States military in the Middle East and my final assignment with the CIA was on the Joint Terrorism Task Force in the FBI field office in Orlando. In 2006, I resigned from government service and founded Patriot Defense Group, a defense contracting company dedicated to serving those who defend America. I grew my businesses to create more than 600 jobs and $65 million in gross revenue. I don’t just talk about hiring veterans, I’ve made it a priority. A majority of my employees are United States military veterans and former law enforcement because I know they are among the elite our country’s workforce has to offer.
I founded two other companies and the combined business operations over the past nine years range from specialized security training for U.S. special operations to defending corporate clients against cyber-security attacks and the ground delivery of the US Postal mail to our troops in Afghanistan. I have proven that modern defense contractors can and MUST be assets to our military and not a drain on the tax payer.
My business success has been the result of hard work, dedication and a winning corporate culture that emphasizes the value proposition for our clients. That success has been recognized by the Wall Street Journal and through awards such as Orlando Business Journal’s “Veterans of Influence” and Ernst and Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year. My military and national security expertise has earned me a seat on the board of directors of the National Defense University Foundation and the board of advisors for the Rand Corporation Center for Middle East Public Policy. I am also an active member of Young Presidents Organization (YPO).
As a husband and father of three beautiful girls, as a combat veteran, and as an American citizen, I am gravely concerned about the path we are on as a nation and the negative effect that professional politicians from both parties are having on our constitutional republic.
There are three issues that I hear over and over again from people across our great state and that I believe are critical to restoring America’s prominence: national security, economic growth and defending our personal freedom.
I am running for the United States Senate because ours is the greatest country in the world and I have lived my life based on the philosophy that those who can serve should.
I hope you’ll join me in this fight to take back our country and Restore America’s Prominence!
The Highlands County REC does not endorse or take sides in a Republican Primary Election. All are encouraged to become educated on the candidates. Meeting announcements and articles of interest will be posted to allow you to become as informed as possible before you cast your vote.
Paid for by the Highlands County Republican Executive Committee
P.O. Box 7987, Sebring, FL 33872