A Promise for the Fallen
While Mincio received his calling to join the military after the 9/11 attacks, he says his real mission started when he met Staff Sgt. Jesse L. Williams at what was then Fort Lewis. The two became friends and Minicio promised Williams he would look after his infant daughter if anything happened to him in Iraq. On April 8, 2007 Williams died in combat. In honor of his friend and other soldiers, Mincio started the Team Jesse Foundation to help families of fallen soldiers by raising money through awareness and events. In 2014, Seattle’s CityClub honored Minicio with a Jefferson Award for his service.
The Team Jesse Foundation was created as an extension of the promise he made and as a way to care for other families of fallen soldiers.
"That promise is what it's all about, " Mincio said. "It’s about commitment and staying true to your word. It’s about family, about friends and about the community that has come together to say thank you for what our nation’s heroes, the fallen, have sacrificed to allow us to live free."
Why did you chose to serve and what is the biggest challenge you faced as a new U.S. Army infantryman?
I felt that our country was attacked on 9/11. Just as past generations have, I saw this as a call to duty as many other proud Americans did at this time. Transitioning to life as an Infantryman was very challenging to me, particularly during the 15 weeks at Infantry school at Fort Benning in 2002. Being told what to do, when to do it, and a complete lack of free time while living in barracks with other soldiers much younger than me was extremely difficult. Over time, those other soldiers helped me succeed and adjust. I believe I did the same for many of them.
What did you learn while serving in the military?
I learned how to cope in very difficult situations. Situations I could not control and could not just opt out of. I was fortunate to have come from a good family and had a healthy childhood. My parent made it possible for me to go college which led to job opportunities. I faced the biggest challenges of my life in the US Army, particularly the year I was in Iraq. Now that I am back working in corporate America, I tell coworkers when things go wrong that things could be worse and to remain calm. I coach HS Lacrosse on Mercer Island and when we suffer our biggest losses, I think of my military experience and it puts it all in perspective. I remind my players that a lot worse things can happen in life than losing a HS sporting event. This perspective was undoubtedly gained from my military service.
Were you able to use skills from your career at Goldman Sachs in the military?
The management and leadership skills acquired during my time at Goldman Sachs translated directly into the military. During basic training I was a peer leader for the entire time. I was able to organize tasks and duties for myself and my entire class. Once I joined the regular Army, I served in leadership jobs throughout the rest of my enlistment. My technical and financial skills were utilized for a period of time in Iraq as well, where I advised the Ministry of Finance and worked with my brigade’s command group organizing intelligence. On a 1:1 level, I also regularly assisted soldiers and officers personally and professionally.
What is the most memorable experience from your service?
Following my return from Iraq in the fall of 2004, I was selected to represent my brigade by testifying at a congressional level hearing in Washington DC with the Secretary of the Army and the Army Chief of Staff. This was the most memorable single experience. However, my time with the scouts in the 5-20 Infantry collectively resulted in experiences and friendships that continue today. It was in this unit that I met SSG Jesse Williams. The memories of him and other members of my scout team will be with me forever.
What inspired you to start Team Jesse?
Initially, Team Jesse was the name of a lacrosse team formed to help raise money for Jesse’s infant daughter, Amaya Williams, shortly following Jesse’s death in 2007. I made a promise to Jesse to look after her financially if something were to happen to him. The team name and benefit for Amaya was an idea by a close friend from college, Matt Corry, who I played lacrosse with then and in the tournament in 2007.
In 2010, I was discussing the upcoming 10th anniversary of 9/11 with my wife Heather during a hike in Hawaii. We saw an opportunity to extend the promise to Jesse by assisting other families and raising awareness of the sacrifices soldiers and their families make. Shortly thereafter, with the help of my wife Heather Hager and my sister Eileen Tang, Matt Corry and I founded the Team Jesse Foundation with a mission to provide education and support for the families of fallen soldiers.
What services and support does the organization offer?
I believe it is our duty to ensure the legacies of our nation’s heroes are never forgotten. We can help their families with a combination of direct support and by helping preserve the memories of the loved ones who were lost while defending our freedoms. Team Jesse partners with like-minded organizations such the Moyer Foundation and the Travis Manion Foundation to provide grants, scholarships and bereavement support for families of fallen soldiers. We also support veteran issues more broadly. Through these partnerships and internal programs such as “Ride to Remember” and “Islanders Never Forget”, we have been able to engage communities to get involved, at the youth and adult level, directly resulting in assistance and telling the stories of local heroes.
What motivates you to continue to serve the community?
Serving the community gives me a sense of purpose and accomplishment. At a higher level, it is a way I have been able to honor my friend Jesse and keep my solemn promise to him. Through Team Jesse, his story continues to be told and I have benefitted from experiences along the way. In this regard we continue to help each other, even though he is no longer among us physically.
What is the best way to reach out to civilians who may not understand the issues veterans face?
It is difficult to explain to a civilian exactly what military life is like, and I believe it is impossible to explain life in combat in a way that truly embodies the experience. However, I do think it’s possible for a civilian to accept the inability to understand the actual experience, and still educate themselves on the impact military service has on an individual. By doing this an appreciation is gained for the challenges veterans face and a possible outcome of this appreciation could be a willingness to help.
What is the #1 need a veteran has that a civilian can address?
Transitioning from military to civilian life is very challenging in all aspects of life. I believe it is critical for a veteran to have a good job, a steady income and a career following the military. This helps ease the transition and provides hope for the future. Civilians can help with this. Assisting a veteran with translating a resume from military to civilian language, making a professional introduction, providing a reference/referral, or even just sitting down and helping a veteran determine “what is next”, are examples of ways to make a positive impact. Even if a very few people did this for just 1 veteran, a huge impact can be made.
Here are 5 simple things anyone can do to help veterans:
1. Next time you see a veteran, rather than say “thank you”, ask how they are doing. If they don’t want to say a lot or anything at all, that is ok. Just listen to whatever answer is given.
2. Help a veteran get a job.
3. Help a veteran travel to see family or friends.
4. Visit a VA hospital. Spend time with a disabled veteran.
5. Remind a veteran that they have lots of benefits that they need to take advantage of including housing, education, and health. Encourage them to reach out to take advantage of these benefits. Visit www.va.org for more information. Health and general benefits are clearly outlined on this site. If a veteran does not have access to the internet, call 1-800-827-1000. I know people who have called in times of distress and have gotten excellent services. You can even dial this number on your phone for them if they truly have no means to get assistance themselves.