What is your military history/experience?
As a senior in high school, I slowly realized that high school was going to come to an end.
And that’s when life got real.
I knew I didn’t have the discipline to go to college. I bumped into a military recruiter, and he offered me my own money, my own apartment, three meals a day, and preparation for college. As I saw it at the time, my options were staying where I was – death, prison, drug addiction – or joining the military. I joined up and spent some time in Germany before returning to marry my high school sweetheart (my wife to this day!) and bring her to Germany.
Once my wife and I were in Germany, I was quickly deployed to Desert Storm.
I was so young. The reality of war and the danger hadn’t sunk in.
It was not real until I found myself sent to the front lines to gas up the tanks. As I’m working, I started hearing, ping, ping, ping – and I’m asking my buddy what that sound was. He says, you fool – that’s the enemy shooting at us!
And there I was in the middle of the war, being shot at, and realizing that if I don’t do what I’m supposed to do, I might not make it.
I did make it, and after my commitment to the military, I immediately enrolled in college. I loved numbers.
My time in the military is something I’m thankful for. I’m thankful for the exposure to different cultures and people, the respect I learned, and the camaraderie I had and still have with my fellow service members. You form a true bond when you realize you’re defending freedom for America.
Can you share a story about a veteran you were particularly inspired by?
I wasn’t the easiest young man to raise. I got into trouble. I struggled with discipline.
My parents used to send us to see my Uncle Clarence when we were young. He was one of the few people I knew that was doing something positive – he was a role model to me. He had a nice house, a Corvette, and loved me passionately. His son and I were close. As I got older, he challenged me and helped me with nuggets of wisdom.
How do you stay in touch with the veteran community?
I get together with our local veteran group weekly. The older members are still coaching me. They tell me that as a part of the younger generation of veterans, that it’s on me to carry it forward.
Through our veteran meetings, I’ve learned to honor what was done for me.
I’ve learned a great deal about the Tuskegee Airmen – a unit of African American pilots in World War II led by a Caucasian officer. This officer was attacked, and his family was threatened for fostering this outstanding group of men risking their lives for America. A friend of mine is working on a documentary about this unit. These men and their commander are inspirational to me.
In these veteran organizations, it’s not about color.
I encourage more minority veterans to come – I let them know that in these groups, you’re going to be seen as a veteran first – before they see you as an African American or a Latino, etc.
When they come and see the camaraderie, they feel welcomed and also get the help they need (mental help or disability services, etc.).
Are there specific concerns you encounter when serving our veterans who are minorities?
Unfortunately, minorities don’t have a large percentage of homeownership, and many haven’t had someone who was able to walk them through the process.
We connect about our shared experience as veterans, and they know I’m going to fight for them.
I walk them through the process and tell them the why behind the documentation requirements, etc. and help them feel comfortable and educated about the process.
I realize what people have done for me and my family, and I try to extend that to every veteran.
Is there a common misconception about VA loans that you’d like to clear up?
I’ve found that many think it takes longer than 30 days to close a VA loan. However, if you have the documentation ready and work with a Loan Advisor experienced in VA loans, you can close in 30 days. And you can use your VA benefit twice – most veterans don’t know that.
Is a VA loan always the best loan product for a veteran?
A loan advisor experienced in what the VA offers can help you understand and maximize your benefits.
Often a VA loan is a great solution for a veteran.
Because Uncle Sam is co-signing your loan, most lenders and insurers recognize the government’s backing as a solid guarantee – this can help veterans with home financing qualification.
Are there certain struggles veterans tend to face when applying for a home loan?
Most veterans come to me because I speak their language.
We may be talking about a loan, but like our time in the military, we’ve got a strict timeline and we need follow-through. So with my veteran clients, sometimes they need a nudge. It’s like, hey – we’re in a fox hole together, are we going to win this war, or not?
Also, being trained in the military, veterans have often grown accustomed to single-source instruction or commands. During the loan process, however, there is a whole team of specialists who help to facilitate the loan – so you may receive an ask from more than one person.
To mitigate any uneasiness with information requests, I make sure to tell my clients upfront that I will be their main source of direction, but since I’ve got a whole team behind me, to expect interaction from other members of my team during the loan process. If there are any questions as to the legitimacy of the request, I encourage them to contact me directly.
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